Saturday, July 27, 2013

Chapter 5 (t)

It seems that Satsukawa is a bit disappointed, he probably thinks that we have reached yet another dead end. We have learned a lot of many interesting facts, and we now have a clearer picture regarding the crime scene and the murder weapon. However very little progress has been made toward learning the identity of the culprit, and the whole situation that led the murderer to commit this crime is still uncharted territory.

Satsukawa: "Teramoto, during our present and past conversations you showed an extraordinary knowledge about this school and its students. It seems to me that you managed to create a very efficient network that let you know everything about everyone here. Is there really nothing that you can tell us about Gotsuji?"

So he was thinking about that. That wasn't a bad question at all anyway. If there is one person that would know about any possible rumors regarding Gotsuji, that one is certainly Teramoto.

Teramoto: "Hitomi Gotsuji... I think you're giving me too much credit by saying that I know everything about everyone. I did have several followers that would act as my eyes and ears... That's how I learned of Kubota's hobbies. Even so, I only know what other people tell me, and everything I know about that girl, I learned it from Kagami. You should rather ask this question to her. I'm sorry I can't be of much help..."

Satsukawa: "I see... thanks anyway, Teramoto."

Teramoto: "Wait a moment though..."

Interesting. She seems to have suddenly recollected something from her memories. The look in her face suggests that she is taking an effort in piecing the facts together. My detective instinct is telling me that a relevant clue is about to be revealed, I can sniff its smell in the air.

Teramoto: "Yes... I think that was..."

Erika: "Don't rush it. Think about it with calm and tell us all the details."

Teramoto: "That's not something that happened at school... it was a few months ago... I think it was the day after Christmas."

The end of December of the past year.
Around that time Gotsuji grew a sudden interest in dating sites. In addition, that's when she started purchasing more expensive stuff than she could normally afford.
This can't be a coincidence. Something must have happened between December and January, something that triggered a chain of events that ultimately led to the crime I need to solve.

Teramoto: "I had just arrived at Shinjuku with my friends. Since we live on the suburbs, we don't really have many chances to hang around the most famous wards and districts of Tokyo. Shinjuku, Harajuku, Shibuya, Akihabara, they're like myths to us. We always dream of going there to have fun. So it isn't unusual for the students of this school to visit those places during long school holidays. I was with Kagami, among the others, and then suddenly she told me that she spotted Gotsuji.
I usually don't pay too much attention to everything that Kagami says. It wasn't very likely that she actually recognized one of our schoolmates in the middle of that crowd, but then I followed the direction where she was pointing at with her finger, and I remember that I thought that she was probably right. To be honest, the girl that I saw was walking away from us, so I didn't even see her face, but Kagami seemed to be pretty sure that it was her.
We just went on our way then, and so I never put that much thought into that. However just a while back I remembered, and I just realized that if it was her, then she was all alone in that place. But there's more, because, now that I think about it, from there she could only be heading toward Kabukichou..."

Satsukawa: "... Are you sure?"

Teramoto: "No... not really..."

Kabukichou... of all the places. That's a well known red light district, under the control of the yakuza no less. That's the place to go if you're looking for hostess clubs, soaplands and love hotels.
Don't tell me that the Sumadera are involved again. Those people are everywhere... they are behind everything... they...
No, calm down, Erika. Think rationally. This is a murder mystery, criminal organizations are forbidden. Besides killing people in such a conspicuous way is not in their style. They aren't amateurs.

Satsukawa: "I find it very hard to believe that a teenage girl would adventure there all alone."

Teramoto: "Yeah... you're right... It was probably someone else."

No, it actually matches perfectly. Everything points into that direction, it can't be a simple coincidence. Hibari must have some kind of special ability to recognize people to compensate for her substandard intellect. Still, what a funny coincidence, this is definitely something that I can use for my plans.

Erika: "Do you remember anything else about that girl? Even small particulars are important."

Teramoto: "No... I don't think so... I have very fuzzy memories of that..."

Erika: "Go back with your mind to that time, focus on the image that is still imprinted in your little gray cells. Remember what you saw that day. Are you sure she was alone? Do you remember how she was dressed? Was there anything off about her?"

Teramoto: "She wore casual clothes, I don't know... there were people around her of course... She was in the middle of a crowd..."

Erika: "I see, well it's all right..."

Teramoto: "Wait... I think I know why she somehow stood out. She was... She was acting suspiciously."

Erika: "Suspiciously?"

Teramoto: "As if she didn't want to be seen."

This is really interesting.
Today Satsukawa brought me the recovered data from Gotsuji's personal computer. According to those files the victim made several searches regarding dating sites, especially those meant for people residing in the Tokyo area. I checked the dates of when each of those files was first downloaded in her hard disk, and the earliest were from December 27 of the past year. In other words it started exactly the day after Teramoto allegedly saw Gotsuji heading all alone toward Kabukichou.
Just what happened exactly that day? According to Teramoto it shouldn't be surprising if a student of this school went to Shinjuku during holidays, but alone? It would make more sense if Gotsuji was with one or more friends, unless she was up to no good to begin with.
And what about that last part? Acting suspiciously? She didn't want to be seen? While in the middle of a huge a crowd?

Satsukawa: "...Erika!"

Erika: "Uh? What are you yelling for?"

Satsukawa: "I've been calling you for a while, are you still with us?"

Erika: "Sheesh, I was just thinking. You should try that sometimes."

Satsukawa: "I wanted to know if you had more questions. I think we should call it a day, it's pretty late. Teramoto's parents will begin to worry, if she stays any longer."

Erika: "I have no objections, I don't think we'll get anything else from her."

Satsukawa: "Okay then. Teramoto, I'm going to give you a ride back to your place."

Teramoto: "Eh, that's not necessary..."

Satsukawa: "I insist, it's the least I can do to make up for keeping you here. Don't worry, I have no intention to climb all the stairs up to your family's shrine."

That's a nice way to say he doesn't plan to talk to her parents, which is what Teramoto was worrying about.

Satsukawa: "All right, just let me make a call first. I'll be back in a few minutes."

Erika: "Be quick, a gentleman should never make ladies wait."

Before leaving the room, Satsukawa leans briefly toward me.

Satsukawa: "Be nice."

Yeah, sure. I am not going to eat the witness alive, I promise.
So it's me and Teramoto now, the two of us, all by ourselves.
Awkward... and yet, decidedly amusing. Because between the two of us, Teramoto is certainly the one who is feeling more discomfort. She is the defeated and I am the victor, this is only natural.
I gleefully observe her nervous gestures. This is actually a pretty funny sideshow.

Teramoto: "You..."

Surprisingly, it seems that Teramoto is trying to start a conversation. So that's why she was so restless.

Teramoto: "You know what's going to happen to me starting from tomorrow, right?"

I see, this is what she was brooding over.

Erika: "Let's see. According to my predictions, not even you have the power to keep the extraordinarily crazy event that has just happened under wraps. It was too exciting and gossip-worthy to expect those first year students to keep silent about it. Most of them are probably already spreading the news by phone. Tomorrow this will be the hot topic of this school. By the start of lunch break there won't be a single student left that won't know about it, including boys. Naturally that means everyone will know that you always lied, everyone will know that you're just a vulgar trickster. More importantly, everyone will know what an unsightly defeat you suffered against me.
It goes without saying that any kind of power you had before today will be gone. Most of your 'loyal' subjects will probably turn against you. They'll claim that they were tricked as well to save themselves from the inevitable scorn and hostility. Don't worry, though, Hibari isn't smart enough to abandon the sinking boat.
I think you should prepare yourself to face even harsher accusations. Once it will be decreed that you're a villain, everyone will find convenient to use you as a scapegoat. I have no doubts that you'll be accused to be Gotsuji's murderer. Trust me, I have quite some experience about this kind of stuff. Hibari won't have it easier, they'll say that she's your accomplice. Some will even suggest that she killed Gotsuji following your orders.
The whole school will turn against you, people will talk behind your back and sneer. Wherever you will look, you'll meet malign stares, accusing you, despising you, besmirching you.
You see, Teramoto, what you said about the fact that everyone deep down is a bully is indeed one of the sad truths of this world. However some people are bound by what they call 'morality'. That basically means that they won't easily commit 'evil' acts, because that would tarnish the image of rectitude that they have of themselves. But that doesn't mean that they lack the same primordial and barbaric impulses of everyone else. So those upstanding and praiseworthy people subconsciously look for morally questionable scapegoats. Against those they can safely unleash their repressed sadism. It's all right, because those are evil, they don't need to feel bad about scum. It's eye for an eye, right? Even if they aren't the offended party, they'll feel entitled to be the executors of that distorted vengeance, and then they'll call it justice or karma.
What I'm getting at, Teramoto, is that you can't even count on those so called 'good-willed' persons. They will all gang up on you. Even those who normally wouldn't bother will jump on the bandwagon just to follow the flow. They will all rejoice for the advent of a special scapegoat which they'll be able to bully with no remorse."

Teramoto: "Stop!!! STOP IT!!!"

Friday, July 26, 2013

Chapter 5 (s)

Teramoto: "Do you believe me if I say that she never showed any grudge toward me? It was really as if nothing happened, not that we became friends or anything though. When I first explained my projects to her, she listened attentively and then she approached the issue as if she was a machine that was just given a mission. She never questioned stuff like 'why should I do this', 'why do you want to do this', and so on. All that mattered to her was what kind of tool I needed and how she could perfectly create it."

Erika: "Just as I thought. Then let me confirm something, it was Junko Andou and not you who came up with the idea of that elaborated lock."

Teramoto: "Yes... what I suggested back then was something similar but simpler. Andou then insisted to know exactly what kind of purpose I needed that for. Then she rejected my project and proposed her own. She became suddenly talkative when she started to explain all the reasons why my idea was wrong and her was better. It's as if she was an expert on locking devices or something. She kept repeating that the best lock is a lock that you can't see to begin with.
Naturally it's not like she suddenly gave a damn about my cult, she just wanted to do a good job for her own sake."

Satsukawa: "I think this is a pretty relevant point. In other words you're confirming that Andou knew how to open that door."

Teramoto: "Obviously so, she's the very person that came up with that system... Wait... are you suspecting that she killed Gotsuji?"

That's a pretty good question, but she should have realized this sooner. Certainly what she told us so far doesn't really help in mitigating our suspicions. Is Andou the kind of person that would kill someone in cold blood? I still lack conclusive evidences, but everything seems to indicate that yes, she is that kind of person. However we still lack any proofs regarding a possible relation between her and the victim. Is Oda really the only connection?

Satsukawa: "To your knowledge, how many persons knew the trick to open the shed's door before the crime occurred?"

Teramoto: "Everyone in the occultism club knew... plus Kagami and Andou."

Erika: "That's too many people. Any of them could have told this secret to someone else."

Teramoto: "I think you're forgetting something relevant here, great detective. Even if someone knew how to open the door, there was nothing he could do without the proper tool, and only two of those exist. Kagami has one and I have the other."

Erika: "... Of course it's not like I forgot anything, I was just getting to that."

Teramoto: "Liar!"

Erika: "Silence! Anyway Junko Andou could have made more of those without telling you, or she could have created another one later. I think she gave them a specific name, if I'm not mistaken..."

Teramoto: "Yeah... how do you know? When she gave me mine she said that it was 'Slim Jim'. That made me laugh, to think that she would give a cute name to a tool she made..."

Just as I thought.

Satsukawa: "What if someone stole your Slim Jim or Kagami's and then put it back before you noticed?"

Teramoto: "I can't think of many people who could do that with mine without being ninja."

Erika: "However in Kagami's case I think it would be pretty easy. Whenever she plays basketball her stuff is completely unattended, and she's not bright enough to notice if someone rummaged through her belongings."

Satsukawa: "So in the end there are still a lot of possibilities..."

Erika: "The simplest solution is still the more probable though. Don't you agree, Teramoto?"

Teramoto: "Why are you asking... me?"

Dlanor: "Miss Erika is suggesting that the culprit is more likely someone who already possessed both the knowledge and the tool to open the shed's door."

Teramoto: "I thought you said that Kagami isn't the culprit! Wait... that leaves me, doesn't it?!"

Erika: "I'm glad that you finally realized where you stand."

Teramoto: "It wasn't me... I didn't do anything wrong... I mean, apart from all the wrong things that I did... But I never killed anyone! I could never! I'm not a monster!"

Erika: "Does that mean that you made someone else to do that?"

Teramoto: "Neither! I'm not such a fool to not realize that I'd be still guilty!"

Satsukawa: "And you never happened to give the order to 'punish' Gotsuji, just like you did with Andou and anyone who stood in your way?"

Teramoto: "No! There was absolutely nothing between me and Gotsuji!"

Erika: "Interesting. Perhaps you're telling the truth, and you're completely unrelated to the crime, but what if you're the culprit and you're simply denying your responsibility in a desperate attempt to save yourself from the consequences? You sure showed that tendency with all those: 'I never did anything wrong'!"

Teramoto: "That's different! You must believe me! I'm not lying!"

Erika: "So... it's not like you're telling us all these things about Andou to divert our attention from yourself, right? I just want to make that sure."

Teramoto: "What?! I... I wasn't even thinking about that! Everything I told you about her is the truth! You can ask my friends to confirm my version of the facts, if you wish!"

Satsukawa: "That's enough, Erika. Like I said, this isn't a trial, and this isn't an interrogation of a possible culprit either. Right now we're just collecting Teramoto's statements. Whether they're true or false, that's something that we'll evaluate later."

Erika: "Fair enough. You heard him, Teramoto. So please, be at ease. *giggle* *giggle*"

Teramoto: "Gh..."

Satsukawa: "So, is there anything left that you need to tell us about Andou?"

Teramoto: "Nothing much... Of course the inner mechanisms inside the statue of Pazuzu were also made by her, after she improved my original project. She made me spend even more money because she insisted that a cheap infrared remote wouldn't have worked. Kagami was usually the one that operated that."

Satsukawa: "I really feel like an idiot now for wasting that much time checking the shed a few days ago. That Hibari really pulled a nice prank on me."

Erika: "Sure she did."

Satsukawa: "You knew it all along, didn't you...?"

Erika: "I suspected that. It didn't hurt to check that place carefully though."

Satsukawa: "Yeah, of course..."

Erika: "Ah, I almost forgot! We still need to ask you about the murder weapon. Surely you're not going to confirm that ridiculous story that you told us before."

Teramoto: "That sword is cursed..."

Erika: "Are you still saying that?!"

Teramoto: "Wait... let me explain! I didn't make that up. At the very least I'm not the one who did."

Erika: "What do you mean?"

Teramoto: "I found it among my family heirlooms. There's a storeroom back to my place that I'm not supposed to enter, and you can't imagine how many antiques have been lying there forgotten for who knows how many years! I was looking for some kind of treasure that could impress my friends and our guests, and I found something that surpassed my hopes by far. It was sealed inside a box, and when I say 'sealed' I mean that there was an actual magic seal placed on it."

Erika: "In other words one of those piece of papers that are meant to seal curses."

Teramoto: "Yeah, one of those."

Erika: "And naturally you didn't think twice before breaking it, considering how much you believe in all that stuff."

Teramoto: "It... it was already broken and all tattered! I told you that it was really old! Anyway once I opened the box, I found the wakizashi inside. There was a letter too and it was written by the former owner. He wrote that he believed that sword to be cursed. He stated that there was a demon lurking inside with a thirst for innocent blood. If one was to carelessly wield that sword, he would be possessed by the evil spirit and he would kill the closest person. Fearing that destroying the wakizashi would cause an even greater calamity, he asked the priest of that time to seal it and to keep it forever under his watch inside the sacred grounds of the shrine."

Erika: "Is this all real, Teramoto? You aren't telling us another of your stories, aren't you?"

Teramoto: "No! I swear, this is the truth! I still have the letter somewhere! It's authentic! Can you imagine how ecstatic I was after such a rare find? That's why I brought it with me to my secret place. It became one of my best pieces to impress our guests!"

Erika: "Yeah, I can imagine. I bet it killed at your parties."

Teramoto: "You don't think that the curse was... real?!"

Erika: "Now are you worrying about that?"

Teramoto: "But it happened! Someone actually killed with that sword, just like the letter said!"

Erika: "No, Teramoto, how stupid can you be?! The murderer used that sword because you worked your way to make half the school know that it was a cursed weapon. Because he or she wanted to make it look like the crime was related to your occult club, thus directing the investigations on the wrong path.
As for what concerns the owner of that wakizashi, he was psycho! He killed an innocent person under some sort of crazy compulsion, because his mind was all messed up! But of course you can't expect a deranged individual to simply admit his crimes. So, very much like you, he started telling to himself that it wasn't his fault, that he never did anything wrong! Then he came up with a convenient fantasy to put all the blame onto something else. 'It was a demon! This sword is cursed! It's not my fault!' He convinced himself so hard that he ended up entrusting the wakizashi to a shrine, and so he washed his hands off his crime! Case closed!"

Damn... did I overreact? I was caught up so much in the excitement that I ended up saying more than I wanted to. I just can't stand it when people act so idiotically when the truth stares them in the face. I lost it, I couldn't stay silent any longer. That's not good, I need to exert on myself more self-restraint. I have the bad habit to let my excitement take over me causing me to act against my better judgment.

Teramoto: "How... how do you know all that?!"

Erika: "That's the only logical deduction that one gifted with a decent brain can make, come on! Do you think that any sane person would come up with such a story?"

Teramoto: "That apart... didn't you just imply that the culprit is completely unrelated to my club?"

Erika: "Tch..."

I said too much.

Satsukawa: "Anyway... regardless of curses, what were you thinking when you brought a real sword to school? Do you understand how irresponsible that was?"

Teramoto: "I... I'm sorry..."

Erika: "Well it's not like it would have changed anything. Sword or not, the murderer would have killed anyway."

Satsukawa: "Why didn't you tell us this since the beginning?"

Teramoto: "My father will kill me when he'll know what I've done..."

Erika: "That seems appropriate."

Teramoto: "Why?! I didn't kill anyone! You think so as well!"

Erika: "I never said that."

Teramoto: "Liar!"

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Chapter 5 (r)

Teramoto frowns immediately as soon as she hears the name of that strange girl. She looks a bit surprised and she seems indecisive about what to say.

Teramoto: "Junko Andou... just how much do you know already? How did you even learn that she's involved?"

Erika: "That's just a matter of logic. Anyone with enough intelligence and a bit of initiative would have been able to acquire this simple information."

Teramoto: "Did you talk to her already?"

Erika: "Yes... or, more precisely, Dlanor did."

Teramoto: "Dlanor? You mean...?"

Erika: "Yes, it looks like she and Andou immediately bonded. They must be kindred spirits. *giggle* *giggle*"

Dlanor: "I respectfully disagree, I do not think we have much in common at all, Miss Erika."

Teramoto: "Aaah... I give up... I don't care anymore..."

Erika: "That's the way I want you. So, is Andou one of your followers too?"

Teramoto: "Ha! That's what I wanted, but no matter how much I tried, she always refused."

Satsukawa: "I thought you never pressured anyone into becoming one of your adepts."

Teramoto: "Normally yes, but as soon as I realized that there was a girl with those skills in our school, I really wanted her to join my group. She was always alone, she had no friends, she was just a first year student. I thought I could easily manipulate her."

Erika: "Junko Andou... she's surprisingly a tough one, isn't she?"

Teramoto: "You have no idea! Just trying to get her into a conversation was a challenge. From the very beginning she told me clearly that she didn't want to join my group, but I'm used to that. I can be a very patient person, and I thought that I would eventually break her. I was very wrong on that.
I started to feel an increasing hatred toward her. She wasn't simply rejecting me, she was defying me, and I couldn't accept that. I decided that she had to be punished for her insolent behavior. Of course that was also for her own good, she needed to learn her place in society."

Erika: "So in other words you started to bully her."

Teramoto: "Bully her?! Tch... well I guess that you can say that we did bully her, if you really want to put it that way..."

Erika: "See, Satsukawa-san? She's such a nice girl, she never did anything wrong at all! *giggle* *giggle*"

Teramoto: "All right, I get it! I'm a horrible person! But why don't you listen to my whole story before concluding that Andou was just a victim and I was evil incarnate? I might have done many wrong things, but who doesn't?! It's easy to point the finger at bullies as if they are the only bad persons in the world, but you know what? Everyone deep down is a bully! The only difference is that some have power and some do not. Give them the chance and even the bullied will become bullies before you can even notice! Even those who overtly despise bullies have probably bullied someone and they don't even remember it, or they justify it with some kind of rationalization. Perhaps they think that their case is different, because they deserved it. Well guess what? I also think that Junko Andou deserved it, okay?!"

Erika: "Ha ha ha! Calm down, Teramoto, who said that I despise bullies? If anything I despise the stupid people that let themselves be bullied."

Teramoto: "Come to think of it, you're just a big bully yourself, aren't you?! Are you having fun?!"

Erika: "Yes. And what is most satisfying is seeing you reaching this kind of self-realization. You finally see yourself for what you actually are, you're not pretending to be someone worthy of admiration anymore. You came to understand the true nature of yourself and the world. You're embracing the truth at last. I'm proud of what you've become, Teramoto!"

Teramoto: "Go to hell!"

Satsukawa: "Now stop that, both of you. Teramoto, please continue with what you were saying. I must admit that I've become curious to know more about Andou."

Teramoto: "Yeah, okay... What do you expect that I did? I started by spreading rumors about her, I wanted to make sure she'd remain as friendless as she was. Everyone started to avoid her as if she had the plague."

Erika: "Seriously? That's what you did to 'punish' her?"

Teramoto: "I get your point! I actually did her a favor! I didn't know her that well back then! How could I imagine that she'd actually be happy to be a loner forever?! I had no choice but to make her life even more miserable than it already was! Soon she had to deal with pranks almost every day. Her desk was filled with insults and scribbles, her textbooks were stolen, and I'm not going to mention what she found in her locker. Naturally I never did those things myself, I made someone else..."

Erika: "Of course not, you'd never stoop so low!"

Teramoto: "Yeah, it's not like... Aaah! That was sarcasm, wasn't it?!"

Satsukawa: "Good grief... Let her talk, Erika..."

Teramoto: "I know, I get it! Give me a break already!"

Satsukawa: "Calm down, ignore that comment and continue."

Teramoto: "I don't feel like talking about that anymore!"

Erika: "Why? Are you afraid to face the truth of your actions? You disappoint me, Teramoto! Aaah! And here I was having so many hopes for you! *giggle* *giggle*"

Satsukawa: "Erika... are you sure you don't have a personal grudge against bullies? It sure doesn't look that way..."

Erika: "What's that even supposed to mean? Can't you see that I'm the one bullying here? But I'm not shamelessly denying my responsibilities."

Teramoto: "And how does that make you a better person?!"

Erika: "It doesn't. What makes me a better person than all of you, Teramoto, is my brilliant mind. Now, if you please, would you care continuing? I haven't had my fill yet."

Teramoto: "Gh... gh... ghhhhh!!!"

Clenching your fists and gritting your teeth won't do you any good, Teramoto. If anything that only increases my amusement.

Teramoto: "Aaah! Enough! Enough! Damn it! Have it your way, I don't care!"

Erika: "Then, are you ready to expose the pathetic and shameless account of your misdeeds?"

Teramoto: "Yeah, I'm ready! Feel free to laugh and sneer to you heart's content, you witch!"

Erika: "Aha ha ha ha ha!!! Well said! Well said indeed!"

Satsukawa sighs, but doesn't comment.

Teramoto: "So I let Andou simmer in the hell that I prepared for her for a while. Then I approached her, and without being too explicit I made her understand that I could make the bullying stop, if she only accepted my offer."

Erika: "Clever, and what did she say?"

Teramoto: "At first? Nothing! She said nothing! She completely ignored me, as if I didn't even exist! Simply thinking about that fills me with anger all over again! I confronted her more assertively, I demanded an answer, and you know what she told me? She said that she didn't even understand what I was talking about! She totally looked down on me, as if she couldn't even be bothered!"

Erika: "Nice..."

Satsukawa: "Really? What kind of person is this Andou?"

Teramoto: "As if I knew! She's still a complete mystery to me, and you haven't even heard it all! That day I was completely defeated, I was at a loss for words, and she went her way, like that. And there I asked to myself, what did I represent to her? She made me feel like a mosquito trying to hurt an elephant. It became personal. If what I did to her until that point was just a small nuisance, then she left me with no choice but to seriously mess with her.
A few days later, I gathered my friends and we waited for Andou on her way out of her club. We took her to an even more isolated place. I was seriously going to hurt her, you know. I was furious!"

Satsukawa: "What did you do?"

The change in Satsukawa's tone is almost hilarious, he became so serious all of a sudden.

Teramoto: "She followed us without saying a word, without ever looking at us, but I could almost read her thoughts. She was thinking: 'what a bother', 'I just hope they'll be done quickly'. She wasn't scared at all.
We cornered her with her back against a wall, where nobody could see us nor hear us. I started talking to her, you know, to make her understand her situation, to make her know why I had to do what I was going to do to her, why she left me with no other choice. It was like talking to a statue, she didn't even react. She was like in another world, or so I thought. I soon realized how wrong I was."

Satsukawa: "What do you mean?"

Teramoto: "After a few minutes without seeing any reactions from her, I lost it. I remember I moved my right hand, almost subconsciously, with the intention to slap her as hard as I could. And there, for the first time, Andou looked at me. You can't imagine how scary that was. She never looked anyone into their eyes before, but at that very moment she did, and I could feel a murderous intent from that piercing stare. Andou realized that I was going to hit her, I hadn't even raised my hand above my shoulder, but she knew, she read the subtle movements of my body, she knew the pattern. I thought she was ignoring me, but she was actually observing me closely, with her full vision, without focusing on any place in particular.
Then I realized that some kind of pointy tool was dangerously close to my throat. I didn't even notice the movement of her hand. I should have taken away that tool belt from her before threatening her. Only then I realized my mistake. I wonder why they let her keep that on all the time. They probably think that she would never use that to hurt anyone, but they're wrong. Back then she clearly showed the intent to use that tool as a weapon."

Erika: "Intriguing..."

Satsukawa: "Wait... are you telling me that Andou, after being so passive and unresponsive for all that time, finally snapped and attacked you?"

Erika: "That's not it, Satsukawa-san. Andou gave Teramoto a clear message: 'you can prank me and bully me all you want, I don't care, but don't you dare to touch me'."

Teramoto: "Yes, that's what I think as well. Andou didn't even open her mouth, but I received that message with clarity."

Satsukawa: "Then... what happened after that?"

Teramoto: "My friends were taken off guard as much as I was, and I feared that I could lose my authority more than I feared that I could lose my life. I mustered my courage and I calmly confronted Andou. In retrospect it might have been foolish to believe that she wouldn't seriously hurt me, that girl isn't normal. Or perhaps it's because I knew that as long as I wasn't threatening to physically harm her, I had nothing to fear. I don't quite remember what was going on in my mind back then. Faking confidence, I simply told her again that all of that could be solved pacifically if only she accepted to work for me.
She answered like her usual: 'I won't join your club'. I was losing hope and patience, but then she surprised me again. She told me that if all I wanted was to put her skills into use, she could do that."

Satsukawa: "So... in the end nothing happened?"

Teramoto: "That's right, we reached an agreement. She accepted to work on whatever project I had in mind, in exchange I promised to make sure nobody would bother her anymore. I still wonder why she didn't propose that earlier, it could have saved a lot of troubles to both of us. It was still a compromise though, she never accepted to become one of my subordinates. I think you can see why that was troublesome for me. I was going to entrust my tricks and my reputation to an unrelated person. But then I thought, who is she even going to talk to? It's not like I expected any loyalty from her, but she had no friends and she couldn't bother to expose my shams or anything of that sort."

Erika: "So, that's how your cooperation began."