Friday, August 10, 2012

Chapter 3 (a)


Nothing of interest in the newspaper again. Another very boring morning.
I stretch my arms and legs and I lean my head backward taking a look at the dull white ceiling.
I consider myself a very patient person. I can wait hours and days for a prey to bite my bait. But waiting for other people to show up or for things to happen by themselves, well, it is a completely different matter.
While yawning for the tenth time after I woke up today, my attention focuses on Dlanor and I realize that she has been unusually silent. She isn't normally like that when we are alone.

Erika: "Is something the matter, Dlanor?"

Dlanor: "..."

Erika: "Just as I imagined, something is wrong. What kind of heavy thoughts are filling your little head?"

Dlanor: "Nothing of real importance, just my usual worries."

Erika: "Worries. Why are you always worrying about something, I wonder."

Dlanor: "Worrying about you is one of my duties, Miss Erika."

Erika: "That's right, I guess that someone has to worry for both of us in the end, and I completely lack the ability to be concerned about... anything really."

Dlanor: "..."

She once again returns to her silent reflections. It is strange that she doesn't want to talk about them. This probably means that she knows it would be pointless to tell me, or that I could even get mad if I knew what is this about.
I sigh.

Erika: "It's okay, Dlanor, you can speak. After all it's completely meaningless for you to worry, if you then don't tell me a single thing."

Dlanor: "..."

Erika: "What are you scared about? I'm not gonna bite your head off."

Dlanor: "I was thinking... about what you have been doing so far."

Erika: "That's a bit generic, Dlanor, I'm sure you can elaborate that."

Dlanor: "I am talking about the approach you decided to take regarding this case."

Erika: "Hmmm... I'm not sure I understand. That seems like my usual approach, more or less."

Dlanor: "I know you well, Miss Erika, I know you better than anyone else. I know you even better than how you know yourself."

Erika: "So? What's your point exactly?"

Dlanor: "Even if it is impossible for anyone else, I only need so much to understand what you try to do. I have already figured it out."

Erika: "And that worries you."

Dlanor: "I am worrying because I know you are playing a dangerous game."

Erika: "But where would be the fun, if there wasn't any risk involved?"

Dlanor: "That is why I know it is completely pointless to speak my mind. You cannot stop what you have started."

Erika: "But why exactly are you that concerned? What can go wrong?"

Dlanor: "Many things. Your plan relies on an incredible amount of unforeseeable factors."

Erika: "And what of it? I have a back up plan for almost everything. If something doesn't work, I'll just switch to something else. In fact, I have in mind at least three different strategies right now."

Dlanor: "However, with your apparently nonsensical actions you are preventing yourself from taking a most easy and logical path. I believe that you are purposely avoiding the most relevant questions. You do not want to corner your victims, you prefer to leave an obvious escape route. If they take it, you will know in advance where they will go, and then you can prepare your trap."

Erika: "So? What's wrong with that?"

Dlanor: "It would be better and more swift to corner them whenever you have the chance. There is no guarantee that they will take your bait. There is no guarantee that your trap will work. You might have given up your only chance to catch them."

Erika: "Do you really think it'd be so easy? I doubt the culprit can be checkmated by conventional means. My way may be risky, but if it works the culprit will be completely crushed under my foot."

Dlanor: "I fear that the predator will become a prey, I fear that in the end you will draw yourself into a corner. You know it happened before."

Erika: "Never again, Dlanor, never again."

Dlanor: "..."

Erika: "What is it? I have the feeling that you didn't say everything that you wanted to say yet."

Dlanor: "The other matter that worries me, is probably something that you would laugh it off."

Erika: "Since you're already at it, you might as well tell me the rest. Plus, I'm bored, I wouldn't mind breaking this monotony with a good laugh."

Dlanor: "I still think it is irrelevant for me to talk about that."

Erika: "Irrelevant or not, at this point my curiosity demands to be satisfied."

Dlanor: "Understood, in that case I will speak."

Erika: "Good, let's hear what else troubles you."

Dlanor: "It's about Mister Satsukawa."

Erika: "Oh, Satsukawa? What about that man?"

Dlanor: "I fear he really hates you now..."

Erika: "Ahahaha! Ha ha... Ahahaha!"

Dlanor: "I knew you would laugh."

Erika: "Is that what really worries you, Dlanor? There's really no reason to."

Dlanor: "I think it was nice to have someone who trusted you."

Erika: "That's really ridiculous, Dlanor. Only idiots trust others, we don't need an idiot around us."

Dlanor: "I still think it was nice."

Erika: "..."

Dlanor: "I fear he will not trust you anymore."

Erika: "Sigh."

Dlanor: "Are you angry?"

Erika: "I'm not angry, Dlanor, but I can't say I'm pleased to see you worrying over such things."

Dlanor: "I think Mister Satsukawa is a nice man."

Erika: "Don't tell me! Do you like that guy, Dlanor?"

Dlanor: "I think you like him."

Erika: "What?!"

Dlanor: "I do not think I am wrong."

Erika: "Ha ha ha ha! Seriously, Dlanor, what happened this morning? I can barely recognize you!"

Dlanor: "What should we do?"

Erika: "About what?"

Dlanor: "About Mister Satsukawa. Yesterday he didn't even want to talk to you."

Erika: "What do you want me to do about that? That's really not a concern of mine."

Dlanor: "He is more useful to you when he acts as your partner."

Erika: "Hmmm... you made a good point... In the end that man has his uses. It wouldn't be pretty if he stopped providing his insight and his informations..."

Dlanor: "What should we do?"

Erika: "Well, I'll manage it somehow. If he's a professional, he'll put aside personal matters and he'll still give me his full support, even if he doesn't like me anymore."

Dlanor: "Maybe you should apologize."

Erika: "What?! Ha... what?!"

Dlanor: "It doesn't need to be a sincere apology."

Erika: "Ah, you mean I should apologize just to fix things and make up?"

Dlanor: "I think it is probably the best and fastest way to resolve this situation."

Erika: "No, that won't do. Of course it wouldn't cost me anything to tell him a lie just to make him happy, but an apology? That would be the same as admitting that I was wrong. Absolutely unacceptable!"

Dlanor: "I see, I didn't consider that."

Someone knocks on the door. Our conversation is abruptly interrupted.
I know we weren't quite finished yet, and Dlanor is still worrying. She stares into my eyes and she communicates her feelings even without words. I know what she is thinking: 'what should we do?'

Erika: "Maybe it's just Rokudou."

Dlanor: "What if it is Mister Satsukawa?"

There is no time to answer that question, and it would be pointless anyway. The door opens and the person walking inside is the one that Dlanor feared to be. I guess that she managed to infect my mind with her worries, because I find myself wondering how should I act in front of him. Maybe I should really try to smooth things over, just for Dlanor's sake, of course.

Satsukawa: "Good morning!"

Erika: "..."

Dlanor: "..."

Satsukawa: "I have really good news today!"

Erika: "Good morning, Satsukawa-san..."

Satsukawa: "Yes, this is really a good morning! Are those croissants? Can I have one?"

Erika: "Go ahead, I ordered them through room service, but I'm no longer hungry."

Satsukawa: "Then don't mind if I do..."

Erika: "You seem to be in high spirit today..."

Satsukawa: "Once I'll tell you the news, you'll be as well."

I must refrain from bursting into a fit of giggles. Dlanor and her worries!

Erika: "Well then, I suppose I can wait until your mouth isn't stuffed by a croissant before I can hear them."

He tries to tell something, but then realizes that he has to chew at least some of his bite before he can even articulate a word. He moves his hand to sign that I just need to wait for a second. I really wonder what could have happened to make him this way, but I am not so curious to lose my composure as he did.

Satsukawa: "Okay, prepare for a pretty busy day, we have quite a few girls to interrogate and this time it's the real deal."

Erika: "You don't tell me..."

Satsukawa: "That's right! We've finally received the results of the analysis. We have the names of eighteen girls that need to explain what they were doing inside that suspicious PE shed!"

Erika: "Eighteen, uh?"

I see, no wonder he forgot about everything else, this is a major turn in the investigations.

Erika: "Someone I know?"

Satsukawa: "They are first years students for the most part."

Erika: "First years students? I see... that makes sense..."

Satsukawa: "However three of them are members of the occultism club, one is Kagami Hibari and the last, but not least, is... Maaya Teramoto herself!"

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Chapter 2 (m)

Nagaoka pierces me with a burning stare and then switches to Takamiya. He certainly does not receive the news that I have been alone with her for all of this time in a good way, and he probably would be even less happy to know the details of our little girl talk.
Satsukawa is also pretty upset, his eyes are silently accusing me for my betrayal. The problem is that it is a betrayal just in his mind. He shouldn't have put that trust in me, he was warned several times, and yet he let his guard down. He has been punished for his naivety. He should thank me, that was a valuable lesson. Apart from his anger, though, he is also filled with shame. I wish I could have seen the scene of when he was freed, maybe by Nagaoka himself. I wonder what kind of face Satsukawa had, I wonder what kind of explanation he gave. It must have been certainly hilarious. Well, this is also his punishment for not listening to my advice. Then again, what guarantee did he have that I didn't tell him a lie and that I wasn't simply going to let him rot there? I could have totally done that! In fact it is such a great idea that I am saddened I will not have the chance to actualize it.

Nagaoka: "There are simply no words to express my disapproval. What kind of irresponsible person would bring a student to this place? Ah, forget I even asked that, considering it's you, I shouldn't even be surprised. I'd better not find out that you mistreated Takamiya in any way, or someone is going to take responsibility for that."

Sumomo: "I'm all right, Nagaoka-sensei... she just asked me a few questions..."

Nagaoka: "Is that so, Takamiya? You don't have to protect this... woman. Did she take you here against your will? Did she intimidate you?"

Sumomo: "No... nothing of that sort. I cooperated by my own free will."

What a good girl!

Nagaoka: "Even then, detective... what you've done is simply inexcusable! But I shouldn't talk to you, the one who really is at fault here is Satsukawa-san."

Satsukawa: "I am deeply sorry for what happened... you've all the reasons to be angered. I'm prepared to take responsibility for that."

Nagaoka: "And what if something worse happened? How would you have taken responsibility for that? I've only agreed with this because you assured me that you'd keep her under your constant supervision! How am I still supposed to believe that, when you've been shut inside a closet like a kid?"

Satsukawa: "I... have no excuse for that..."

Erika: "Why are you bowing your head to this man, Satsukawa-san? That's very unbecoming of you."

Satsukawa: "Please Erika, just stay silent for now. Don't make it even worse."

I am pretty sure he will give me a big piece of his mind once Nagaoka is no longer around.

Nagaoka: "I suppose there's really nothing more worth of being said. Your superiors will hear it from me, Satsukawa-san. I can only hope that it'll be enough to convince them that nothing good can come from this nonsense. In any case I expect that you'll exercise more control over that person from now on. I didn't think it was necessary to inform every student that they shouldn't approach this dangerous individual, if she isn't with you, but if this happens again..."

Satsukawa: "It won't, I promise."

Nagaoka: "You promised that even before."

Erika: "What a paranoid man! It's as if you're more worried about me than about the murderer that is most certainly still roaming around this school."

Nagaoka: "You..."

Erika: "Or maybe it's precisely because there's a serious risk that I'll find the murderer that you dislike me that much!"

Nagaoka: "I won't stand silent in front of such outrageous insinuations! You'd better mind your words!"

Erika: "And why would that bother you that much, if you've nothing to hide? If you're innocent, no matter what I say, it'd be just empty words, right? *giggle* *giggle*"

Nagaoka: "Enough of that! I believe you stole a bundle of keys. You'd better return it, now!"

Erika: "Tch..."

Somehow I really hoped that they would forget about that in the commotion.
I regretfully take the keys from my pocket and I present them to the enraged teacher. He snatches them away from my hand without any regard. I am still a lady in the end, he totally lacks style.

Nagaoka: "Now go. You've caused enough problems for today."

Erika: "Ha ha ha, you think that something like that qualifies as 'causing problems'?"

Satsukawa: "Erika..."

Nagaoka: "That better be the worst I'll ever see from you."

Erika: "Do not count on that."

Nagaoka: "Then I was right after all. There's no hope for the likes of you. Once trash, always trash!"

Erika: "If that's your motto, I'm sure you must be a really wonderful teacher."

Nagaoka: "Enough! Get out of here!"

Erika: "Before that, I'd like to confirm with you a few things that Takamiya told me."

Nagaoka: "It's out of the question!"

Erika: "Is it true that Takamiya isn't particularly bright in scientific studies?"

Nagaoka: "Why do I need to answer your questions after all that you've done and said?!"

Erika: "The sooner you'll answer, the sooner I'll remove myself from your presence. Your choice, Nagaoka-san. I won't leave otherwise, and what exactly do you plan to do? Call the police?"

Nagaoka: "Satsukawa-san!"

Satsukawa: "Erika, this is really not the best moment..."

Erika: "Only two questions!"

Nagaoka: "Fine! The first answer is yes! I teach Japanese so I'm not the best person to ask, but I know that that's a weak point for Takamiya. She'd be otherwise the best student of this school, most certainly!"

Erika: "The second question is: are you going home already, Nagaoka-san?"

Nagaoka: "What kind of question is that? That's really no concern of yours!"

Erika: "Please, let me understand how exactly it works in this school. It's something that really bothers me. Why are teachers still here so long after lessons and club activities have ended?"

Nagaoka: "You obviously have no idea about how much a teacher needs to work. Unfortunately a very few persons actually realize that. Our job doesn't end when lessons do. We have clubs to manage, we have tests to prepare, we have tests to correct, a lot of paperworks to do. It'd be too long to explain every detail, suffice to say that it's not unusual for a teacher to finish his work after 8:00 PM."

Erika: "Impressive! But it looks like you've freed yourself a lot earlier on the day of the crime."

Nagaoka: "That really varies from day to day! There isn't a precise time when our work ends."

Erika: "I see. That's all for today. Let's go, Satsukawa-san."

Satsukawa: "..."

Erika: "Is something wrong?"

Satsukawa: "Do you even need to ask?"

Erika: "Yeah, yeah, you're mad, you can't believe I did this to you, what the hell was I thinking, it must never happen again, etcetera, etcetera. I know the drill."

Satsukawa: "Seriously, you..."

There is no point in arguing, I just walk back inside the school and then down to the first floor. Satsukawa follows.
I have learned a lot of many different things today, the pieces of the puzzle are almost all assembled and I begin to see the picture, or rather, the pictures. Now it is only a matter of time, soon everything will fall into place. I need to move the pieces of this complicated chessboard with care. But this is not a game where I have my own pieces, this is a game where I cause the enemy pieces to move according to my precise design until they checkmate by themselves. I have several tools I can use, and I will make full use of those.
Every single piece is hiding something where they stand, if they move, I will see what they were covering. I will drag out their dirty secrets, I will expose them for everyone to see, and then I will check the reactions, then I will see what happens. Sooner or later they will all fall to the ground, one by one I will eliminate all the obstacles and bring them down.
Lies, lies, lies! These people are full of lies! Don't they know that I can smell their stench a mile away? Don't they know how pointless it is to lie to me? I will make sure they will learn it the hard way, I will make sure it will be a most painful lesson. Because there is nothing I hate more than a badly conceived lie, there is nothing I hate more than those who pathetically try to mess with the truth, my precious and beloved truth! Fools! They are nothing but wretched fools! I will bring them on their knees, each to the lowly place they belong to! When it will be far too late, they will finally realize who they were dealing with!
For I am Erika Furudo, the Witch of Truth.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Chapter 2 (l)

Erika: "The two of you became friends through Gotsuji, right?"

Sumomo: "Yes, that also happened two years ago. Meito-kun wasn't our classmate, but I could frequently see him near Hitomi during lunch breaks or on his way to school. It's such a tragic irony... the three of us were finally assigned to the same classroom this year, and now Hitomi is no longer with us..."

Erika: "If I asked you to describe Oda with your own words, what would you tell me about him?"

Sumomo: "Hmmm... hmmm... Why are you asking me that?"

Erika: "Is that a strange question?"

Sumomo: "I think it is... you're not asking for facts, you're asking for an opinion. Isn't that strange?"

Erika: "So in other words you believe that a detective should only inquire about facts. Is that so?"

Sumomo: "Isn't that what you'd normally expect from a detective?"

Erika: "Let me clarify your doubts, Takamiya. There are all sorts of detectives in this world, everyone has his own peculiar agenda and systems. In other words expecting something from a detective is inherently wrong on its premise. But at any rate if you ask me whether I rely on facts or rumors to declare a culprit, I definitely rely on facts. That still doesn't mean that rumors and opinions have absolutely no value to me. Now don't you worry, I'm not even thinking of considering your opinion on Oda to be the truth about him, even so, I'm still interested in knowing that. And if you can't understand why, well, that's no concern of mine. I have no interest nor any will to let you comprehend my ways."

Sumomo: "Hmmm... I see..."

Erika: "So, what can you tell me?"

Sumomo: "I think that Meito-kun is a nice guy, maybe he's even too nice, hmmm... naive... yes, that's the word. And yet... it's not quite the right word..."

Erika: "Go on, try to make me understand."

Sumomo: "For example... hmmm... I'm not sure if I should say this..."

Erika: "If you think you shouldn't tell me, then it's definitely something I'm interested to know."

Sumomo: "He he... you really are a strange person..."

Erika: "I prefer the term "exceptional" myself, but I can understand that for a commoner there's no discernible difference."

Sumomo: "Hmmm... well... I think that Meito-kun let Hitomi exploit him too much..."

Erika: "Fascinating! Please, explain!"

Sumomo: "Well, for example... did you know? Every single day Meito-kun carried Hitomi's schoolbag on their way to school."

Erika: "Every single day? Since the start of high school?"

Sumomo: "Hmmm... I think... I think it started even before that..."

Erika: "Ha ha ha! And what was the reason? I guess that it's really not because Oda is such a gentleman!"

Sumomo: "I think it was because of a bet they've made when they were little. Somehow Hitomi managed to make him honor it for all this time..."

Erika: "Let me get this straight, Oda wasn't happy of having to do that every day, right?"

Sumomo: "Definitely not."

Erika: "And yet he couldn't say no... because of a bet?"

Sumomo: "That's right, that's the kind of person Meito-kun is."

Erika: "So he's not the kind of guy that would willingly break a promise."

Sumomo: "He really cares about such things. He has his own ideas of what a man is supposed to do and what he's not supposed to do. Sometimes I wonder if he realizes that there's nothing that compels him to do all that... He could have simply declared that the bet was void, for example."

Erika: "And you say that Gotsuji was exploiting this side of him."

Sumomo: "Hmmm, yes..."

Erika: "So... was Oda nothing but a useful servant to Gotsuji?"

Sumomo: "That's a very horrible way to put it!"

Erika: "But is it true?"

Sumomo: "Hmmm..."

She's actually thinking about that.

Sumomo: "Hmmm..."

And she's taking her time to answer.

Sumomo: "Well... in the end I think it's really reductive to say that he was just a useful servant."

Erika: "Then what?"

Sumomo: "Hmmm... ah!"

She claps her hands as if she suddenly had a nice idea.

Sumomo: "Just a while before you said: 'Dlanor is mine". I think it was something similar."

Erika: "Gotsuji considered Oda to be her own possession?"

Sumomo: "Think about it, those two have always been together. To Hitomi Meito-kun was an irreplaceable part of her life, someone that she could always rely upon to... hmmm... to do her biddings..."

Erika: "Gotsuji always manipulated Oda into doing whatever she wanted... and she was used to have him always at her disposal for whenever she needed his services..."

Sumomo: "Yes, that's about that!"

Erika: "But wait a moment... if what you're telling me is true... then she couldn't really accept to lose him..."

Sumomo: "She certainly wouldn't have liked that..."

Simply awesome. This little fact is sparking quite a number of amusing implications. The relationships that tied Oda, Gotsuji and Takamiya are suddenly reaching a new depth. There was a lot more that was going on between the three of them and now I am beginning to see the full picture. I wonder if there is even more, I wonder if I can dig up something even dirtier from this ground.
Maybe it has come the time to drop the bomb, I wonder what kind of reaction I will get from this girl. Maybe she will surprise me again. I get the feeling I have merely scratched the surface of a gold mine. But there is no point in wasting time in speculations when I can just ask. I just need to inquire more, I just need to get more feedback from this girl.

Erika: "Takamiya... was Gotsuji... jealous... about you?"

Sumomo: "Uh?!"

Erika: "Didn't she fear that you would take away her precious toy from her?"

The girl's eyes open wide and her jaw drops a little. There is not doubt that she is really surprised by my question, but I still don't understand why exactly. I can make two hypotheses, and I will soon know which it is.
She doesn't answer right away as she always did so far, whenever I made a difficult question. She looks aside and she shows again that mysterious smile.

Sumomo: "You've talked to him just once.... and you've already realized that... He really is an open book..."

Erika: "Ha ha ha! So you know! You know!"

Sumomo: "It's really hard not to notice..."

Erika: "In these cases the object of a secret love is usually the last person to realize it."

Sumomo: "Hmmm... it didn't take me much time to understand that Meito-kun has a crush on me. I've been knowing that for a long while..."

Erika: "And naturally Gotsuji knew that as well."

Sumomo: "She knew. If even I could understand that, there's no way his childhood friend wouldn't. She probably realized it even before I did. At any rate Meito-kun talked about his love troubles to her, and... she took advantage of that too..."

Erika: "Like promising to help him to get the two of you together or something?"

Sumomo: "I'm not sure she went that far, but since she was the only connection between me and him, she could do whatever she wanted. I think she also passed informations about me or even pictures, in exchange for favors, of course..."

Erika: "And you were fine with that?"

Sumomo: "I don't particularly dislike Meito-kun. As I said earlier, he's a nice guy."

Erika: "But he's just not the man for you, right?"

Sumomo: "Hmmm..."

Erika: "Didn't you feel pity for him?"

Sumomo: "Sometimes... but whenever that happened, I always reminded myself that in the end it was partly his fault. Why did he always let Hitomi rule his life? That side of him ticks me off..."

Erika: "Yes, I can understand that. He's an idiot that brings his misery upon himself. But what about you, Takamiya? Why did you never tell him that you know about his feelings?"

Sumomo: "Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I were to tell him the truth. I think he'd get a heart attack or something... in any case he'd probably feel awful about that. Regardless of that, I think it's up to him to come forward and declare his love. He should muster the courage to take that step, and I don't think it would be right for me to take away his chance to do the right thing."

Erika: "You don't fear to find yourself in that embarrassing situation?"

Sumomo: "Not at all, it'd be a relief, if anything. I wouldn't have to pretend anymore. That'd give me the chance to make things straight with him."

Erika: "Let me understand this situation clearly. Both you and Gotsuji knew that Oda loves you... and you both were aware of that?"

Sumomo: "You're asking me if she knew that I knew?"

Erika: "Yes."

Sumomo: "She did. In fact, we often talked about him and his infatuation for me, when he wasn't around."

Erika: "Ah, I imagine typical girl talks! And what did you discuss about exactly? What kind of comments did you make about him the two of you?"

Sumomo: "Hmmm, well... you know how it is..."

She blushes a little.

Erika: "I'm not sure I understand, Takamiya. Did you bad girls make a little fun of the poor guy and his pathetic attempts to hide the obvious? Were you secretly laughing behind his back?"

Sumomo: "He he he... hmmm... maybe we did sometimes... don't think badly of us, okay?"

Erika: "Pff... ahahahahahaha!!!"

Oh my! I just can't stop laughing! I just can't stop!
What a pair of deliciously hellish girls! What an awesome pair, Gotsuji and Takamiya!
That's right! Women can be pretty cruel sometimes, and I know that better than anyone else! But it has a completely different vibe to it when it is someone like Takamiya, apparently so pure and nice, that shows her unforgiving and heart trampling derision!
Meito Oda, you are such a pathetic fool! It makes me want to tear you apart even more! It makes me want to throw you into utter despair! I wonder what kind of face you would make if you were to learn all of this! I shiver at the idea. But it would not do any good if I were to use this information carelessly! A delicious recipe such as this one requires a careful preparation, and I still do not know what else I can add to the main dish! There are so many ingredients to choose from, and there might be more. I just need to keep asking. This girl... is awesome. I just cannot get enough from her.
Please, Takamiya, delight me again!

Sumomo: "Hmmm, is that... funny?"

Erika: "Ah, indeed! It's a lot of fun!"

Sumomo: "I know I said it already but... you really are a strange girl..."

Erika: "Forget that! I believe you didn't really answer my question before. You have already confirmed that Gotsuji knew that Oda has a crush on you, and you have stated that she was very possessive about him. Then it'd be very surprising if she was really okay with that. Actually I have the feeling that it's precisely because of that that you learned what he actually was to her."

Sumomo: "Hmmm... wow... You really are perceptive..."

Erika: "So, am I right?"

Sumomo: "You are... she didn't like how Meito-kun felt about me, but I assured her that I didn't have any intention to steal him. But when you think about it, she could have told him the truth any time. She didn't like that situation, but on the other hand it was convenient to her."

Erika: "As long as you didn't try to take advantage of him as well, right?"

Sumomo: "Yes..."

Erika: "And you never did that, right?"

Sumomo: "Hmmm..."

Erika: "Never, never, never, never, never!"

Sumomo: "A ha ha ha... you really are a funny person..."

Erika: "And what about you, Takamiya? Did she use you as well?"

Sumomo: "Well... I already said that she used to ask for my help with school matters. I guess you can say that she used me as well in a way, but unlike Meito-kun, she respected me. She wouldn't dare crossing a certain line. Hmmm... I fear that you might be getting the wrong impression, so let me confirm this point: she and I were friends."

Erika: "And Oda probably thinks the same. What if she lied to you, Takamiya? What if you were just another tool?"

Sumomo: "I don't believe that."

Erika: "Why not? What makes you so sure of that?"

Sumomo: "Why would everyone think that I was her best friend? She had absolutely no reason to favor me over everyone else. The kind of help that I gave her didn't require any special attention."

Erika: "And yet you're not really telling me nice things about her."

Sumomo: "I think it's necessary for you to know her bad side. Someone murdered her and it might be because of something that she did. But I really liked Hitomi, for other reasons of course. It's precisely because she was my friend that I could forgive her shortcomings."

Erika: "You knew her true face, you saw behind her mask, and you still loved her?"

Sumomo: "Yes... she was an amazing person... I don't think I'll ever meet someone like her. I'll miss her..."

She hangs her head and smiles bitterly.

Erika: "You're taking it quite well, considering your best friend was brutally murdered less than a week ago."

Sumomo: "That's the way I am, but that doesn't mean I suffer any less than those who openly cry."

Erika: "Aren't you an amazing person, Takamiya!"

Sumomo: "You really think so? I wonder... I'm really not special in any way..."

Erika: "Let's change subject a little. What do you know about Gotsuji's involvement with Teramoto?"

Sumomo: "Hitomi was more or less like me. She wasn't crazy enough to become one of her followers, and she wasn't stupid enough to openly defy her."

Erika: "It really sounds like this Teramoto could do terrible things..."

Sumomo: "Making an enemy of her means to go against all of her circle, and that's a lot of students..."

Erika: "And is she fine with people that don't want to get themselves involved?"

Sumomo: "She never forced a student to that point, as far as I know. After a while she just leaves you alone, after she makes you understand the situation..."

Erika: "The situation, uh?"

Sumomo: "Hmmm..."

Erika: "Do you know if Gotsuji became more involved with Teramoto recently?"

Sumomo: "Recently?"

Erika: "For the past few months, at least."

Sumomo: "Hmmm, I wonder... She did act strangely."

Erika: "Strangely? How?"

Sumomo: "She became more distant, I started to have the feeling she was hiding something from me, and we didn't hang out together as often as before."

Erika: "That seems pretty important to me."

Sumomo: "I've said the same to the other investigators, but in the end it's just my impressions, I don't know anything for sure."

Erika: "Do you think she could have involved herself with something shady?"

Sumomo: "Something... shady?"

Erika: "Something illegal."

Sumomo: "Do you really think... hmmm... I imagine you have your reasons for asking this..."

Erika: "So?"

Sumomo: "I'm really not sure... I can't say that she absolutely wouldn't do something like that. I like to think that she knew better... but when she really wanted something, nothing could stop her..."

Erika: "She wouldn't stop not even from selling her own body?"

Sumomo: "Huh?!"

Erika: "Does that shock you that much?"

Sumomo: "Hitomi... doing such a thing... I can't believe it..."

She isn't really denying it though.

Erika: "I think that in a way or another your friend decided to mess with the wrong persons, and I believe that she payed a really high price for that carelessness."

Sumomo: "I don't understand..."

Erika: "You don't really happen to know who that might be?"

Sumomo: "No... I really don't..."

Erika: "Do you know of someone that she might have known more intimately recently?"

Sumomo: "Someone... intimately?"

Erika: "Right, like someone who has some kind of very dirty secret to hide."

Sumomo: "I'm not following you..."

Erika: "It looks like Hitomi was the kind of person that would always obtain what she wanted."

Sumomo: "Yes, that's what I said..."

Erika: "And what if she wanted money? Everyone wants money."

Sumomo: "Eh... hmmm..."

Erika: "She was a really active girl, she really enjoyed her life to the fullest, but that requires money, lot of it! And she never had enough..."

Sumomo: "When you say it like that... I guess I can't deny it..."

Erika: "How was Gotsuji killed?"

Sumomo: "Uh?"

Erika: "I think it's all related in the end. Do you know how she was killed?"

Sumomo: "Your interrogation has become a bit erratic, Furudo-san..."

Erika: "I want you to tell me how your friend was killed. It's a simple question."

Sumomo: "I'd like to know that myself... why are you asking me?"

Erika: "You certainly know what killed her, right? Don't feign ignorance with me."

Sumomo: "It was a sword... a traditional Japanese sword... but you already know that..."

Erika: "Why are you stepping backward?"

Sumomo: "You stepped forward first..."

Erika: "Are you scared, Takamiya?"

Sumomo: "You're scaring me..."

Erika: "Let's talk about how your dear friend died again, shall we? You said that it was a traditional Japanese sword."

Sumomo: "That's what it's been rumored... even the newspaper said so. Hmmm... even Meito-kun told me that..."

Erika: "Did 'Meito-kun' tell you anything else?"

Sumomo: "Anything... else?"

Erika: "Before her heart was mercilessly stabbed!"

Sumomo: "Uh..."

As I slowly move forward, she slowly moves backward.

Erika: "You don't know anything? Nothing at all? Let me know what... rumors... you've heard..."

Sumomo: "I don't know what you're talking about..."

Erika: "Something happened, just before Gotsuji's little heart was pierced. Do you know what?"

Sumomo: "I don't..."

Erika: "So... you know nothing at all! You just know what the newspaper told you! And no one knows absolutely nothing more than that!"

Sumomo: "You don't make any sense! What are you getting at?"

Erika: "What happened to your cool, Takamiya? You look... extremely... nervous!"

Sumomo: "That's because you're scaring me!"

Takamiya finally reached the fence. She jumps from the contact with the cold metal and instinctively looks behind her, the great void behind her shoulders. Before she can turn her head back, I am already as close to her as one can possibly be.
This fence isn't particularly high, of course, people are not meant to come up here. I place both my hands on the handrail, effectively trapping Takamiya between them. She can no longer escape me. I look straight into her eyes with my face so close to hers that our nose tips can almost touch.
To her, at this very moment, I must look like a voracious wolf, a predatory animal ready to feast on her tender entrails.

Erika: "You don't really know what happened to Gotsuji before she was tabbed?! Takamiyaaa?!"

Sumomo: "No! I don't know! I don't know! What the hell are you trying to do?!"

She dangerously leans backward in a desperate attempt to distance herself from me, but I just lean forward rendering her even more helpless.

Erika: "Then, Takamiya, I'll tell you!"

Her eyes are open wide, she is probably too scared to even think. I just hope she is remembering to breathe.

Erika: "She was hit from behind. The culprit hit her head with a hammer... BAM!!! A single hit and she dropped down on the floor... unconscious..."

She just remains still, immobile, paralyzed. Nope, she really isn't breathing at all.

Erika: "Understood, Takamiya?!"

Sumomo: "Uh..."

Erika: "Yes? Are you returning to me? For a moment there I thought you just went somewhere with your mind..."

Sumomo: " Why..."

Erika: "Why?"

Sumomo: "Why are you telling me this?!"

I don't answer, and for a while we just remain like that, looking at each other's eyes.
Then I retreat, and when I turn around I see Dlanor sitting on the floor for no apparent reason.

Erika: "Dlanor, what are you doing there?"

Dlanor: "I fell down, Miss Erika."

Erika: "Are you a kid? I guess that this floor is really slippery, but you should be able to stand on your feet at your age. There, let me help you to get up."

Dlanor: "I have no excuse, please forgive me."

Erika: "Be honest with me, was that just your way to distract me? Did you just think I was doing something funny to Takamiya? Silly Dlanor, you worry for nothing! I was just scaring her, just that. I didn't really mean anything bad. Look, you're all dusty."

Dlanor: "Forgive Miss Erika's behavior, Miss Takamiya."

Erika: "Oh, she's quite fine, she's a strong girl. Aren't you a strong girl, Takamiya?"

Sumomo: "Are you really all right... in your head?"

Erika: "Absolutely! And I see you're already regaining your spirit."

Sumomo: "I don't really want to stay here with you anymore..."

Erika: "But we aren't quite finished, I fear."

Sumomo: "What else do you want to know?"

Erika: "Let's see... what else can I ask you?"

Sumomo: "..."

Erika: "Oh, right! Do you remember Gotsuji's cell strap? It was quite peculiar."

Sumomo: "Uh?"

Erika: "It was... what was it again, Dlanor?"

Dlanor: "Doro Doro."

Erika: "Right! A really cute Doro Doro cell strap! Do you happen to know what..."

I cannot finish the sentence. Takamiya just took her mobile phone from her schoolbag, and my heart skipped a beat. I cannot believe what I am seeing. I am completely lost for words. This is truly unexpected.
Hanging from Takamiya's phone I can see two cell straps. I recognize one of them as Alpaca-kun, an increasingly popular mascot as of late. The other is... well... it is, unmistakably, the alien cat Doro Doro.
It is in every single detail identical to the victim's cell strap. In fact I cannot really think it is another one. I cannot completely deny the possibility that maybe the two girls decided to buy the very same cell strap, but I think it is very unlikely.
Now it is only a matter to understand why that cell strap is hanging from Takamiya's phone rather than from Gotsuji's. I just cannot help but to remember Satsukawa's words: 'I suppose it'd be really cool if you could find the cell strap inside the culprit's pocket'. Guess what? That cell strap just appeared from Takamiya's schoolbag, and she just happens to be one of my favorite possible culprits.
But this is a bit too convenient. In the end what does it even mean? She has the victim's cell strap that mysteriously disappeared from her phone. I have proof that it was where it belonged to just a few days from her demise. But would this girl really carelessly show me that, if it was really an incriminating proof? Maybe I am just overthinking this.

Erika: "Where did you get that?"

Sumomo: "It's Hitomi's cell strap. You just asked about it."

Straight to the point.

Erika: "And since when it became yours?"

Sumomo: "The very day she died, it became mine."

Erika: "Ha ha!"

Are you kidding me? Is she confessing? I cannot keep a straight face.

Erika: "Why don't you tell me the particulars..."

Sumomo: "It was a challenge. She wagered her cell strap and I wagered mine. She lost the bet, and therefore she had to relinquish this to me."

Erika: "What?"

What the hell is this? This is not what I was expecting.

Erika: "Explain."

Takamiya takes a deep breath.

Sumomo: "During lunch break on that day, Meito-kun forgot to rush to the cafeteria to get his favorite food before it'd sell out. It was too late when he realized that, and he started brooding over that fact, lamenting that he'd starve to death and so on. He was being overly dramatic, of course, but since he was taking it that badly, I proposed to share our bento with him."

Erika: "By 'our bento' you mean: yours and Gotsuji's?"

Sumomo: "Yes, it seemed like a nice idea, but Hitomi didn't like that."

Erika: "She didn't want to feed her starving pet?"

Sumomo: "She didn't want her pet to be spoiled, especially not by me."

Erika: "Ha ha ha ha! Great! So what happened then?"

Sumomo: "I made it so she'd have no choice but to accept my proposal. I turned it into a challenge."

Erika: "Tell me about this challenge."

Sumomo: "I proposed that Meito-kun would be the judge of our respective bento, the winner would get the loser's cell strap."

Really? Is that how it went?
She actually proposed that challenge?

Erika: "Wait just a second... You put Oda in a situation where he'd have to choose between you... and her?"

Sumomo: "Hmmm... not exactly between us... just our bento..."

Erika: "Are you kidding me, Takamiya? Are you just playing dumb? Let me just check something... do you make your bento by yourself? In other words, was that your home cooking?"

Sumomo: "... Yes..."

Erika: "Ha!"

Do I even need to explain this?

Sumomo: "At any rate, this is what happened. This is why Hitomi's cell strap is here now. If you don't believe me, you can ask Meito-kun, he'll confirm everything."

Erika: "So... that's how it was... tch..."

Sumomo: "What's the matter, great detective? Did you think this was a relevant clue? I'm very sorry it turned out to be something completely unrelated!"

On retrospect, I am really glad that Satsukawa is not here to see this. He would probably give me an "I told you so" look, and I do not think I could stand that.

Erika: "Can you lend me your phone? Just for a while."

She looks at me suspiciously. At this point I have completely lost her trust, but it's nice to see her true face after all. She is quite different from when she was when we started our conversation.
After thinking it over for a while she finally decides to give me her phone.

Sumomo: "I'm not giving you my permission to check my mails or anything."

Erika: "Why not? Is there something interesting you don't want me to know?"

Sumomo: "Yes, my privacy, and I don't think you have the right to invade it. What are you exactly, in the end? Do you have any authority at all?"

Erika: "I have the detective's authority."

Sumomo: "I've never heard of anything like that..."

Erika: "It's quite all right, I have no intention to check your e-mails anyway. I see this phone is turned off..."

Sumomo: "I never use that phone while I'm at school."

Erika: "What a good girl! So why do you bring it with you then?"

Sumomo: "I might need to use it on my way from and to school, or for emergencies."

Erika: "And what about during lunch breaks?"

Sumomo: "I'm really not the kind of girl that needs to send dozens of mails every day. I don't use my phone very often."

Erika: "Takamiya, do you mind if I take this cell strap? I want to hold onto this for a while. You'll have it back in the end."

Sumomo: "Uh? Why?"

Erika: "It belonged to the victim, right? I still think it could prove to be useful."

Sumomo: "I don't quite understand, but..."

She sighs.

Sumomo: "Okay, you can take it, if you really think it'll help you in finding the culprit..."

Erika: "It could, or maybe not, I'm still not sure yet."

Sumomo: "Go ahead and take it, but I really want it back... undamaged. It has a sentimental value to me."

Erika: "How so?"

Sumomo: "That's the last thing I've got from her. It's a precious memento."

Erika: "Yeah, I think I can understand that..."

I try to remove the cell strap pulling the small cord, it is more difficult than I imagined.

Erika: "These things are really troublesome..."

Sumomo: "If Meito-kun was here, you could ask him to do that. But unfortunately he's not..."

Erika: "I see... hmmm? Strange that you said that. That's what you asked him to do that day?"

Sumomo: "No, he offered himself to do that in my place. He noticed that I was having some problems with it."

Erika: "And so he removed the cell strap himself and then he tied it to your phone. Gotsuji must've been livid."

Sumomo: "She really was upset that she lost the bet, but if you think she'd hold a serious grudge against me just because of that..."

Erika: "Let me say this clearly, Takamiya. You knew that she wanted Oda to be her own personal servant. You knew that she didn't like the fact that he has a crush on you. You knew that what she feared is that he'd start serving you rather than her. And yet you made that challenge, knowing that Gotsuji's pride couldn't let her to turn it down, and that Oda would most likely choose you. If that doesn't mean that you took advantage of Oda's feelings to prove that you had the upper hand and to piss her off, then I am Snow White!"

Outraged Takamiya opens her mouth wide and she is about to yell something at me, she probably wants to tell me that I am wrong, that I am accusing her unjustly, or who knows what else. But no sound can be heard from her. Her mouth slowly closes and then it warps into a grimace. She knows that I am right, she cannot deny my reasoning.
I push her phone back into her hands, and I make Gotsuji's cell strap, now hers, dangle in front of her eyes.

Erika: "As for this thing. I wonder if the sentimental value attached to it is really about a dear lost one, or if it is about the victory and the humiliation you inflicted upon her."

What would I give to hear her answer. What would I give to see what kind of reply she can come up with. But the sound that I hear coming from my back is telling me that my time alone with her is up.
I quickly hide the cell strap inside my pocket. The door opens.
Coming out from it is, unsurprisingly, a really flustered Satsukawa. Behind him is... well... if it isn't a really enraged Nagaoka. This will turn out to be pretty fun. Really fun.