“Don’t move! There’s a thief among us!”
Lab head Emii’s yell resounded though the laboratory… In contrast to that honey-comb-like name, the voice rung out in a heavy bass.
“No one’s taking a step out of this room.”
His voice grew even louder, turning into a hysteric shriek.
With the intensity as if a squad of policemen suddenly entered- or rather- as if an armed robber pushed his way in, I reflexively put my hands up. If the place wasn’t such a mess, I’m sure I would have planted my face to the floor without the slightest hesitation and folded my hands behind my head. While it wasn’t as blatant as a newbie (add on timid) employee like me, the reactions of the others were something similar: They stopped their hands in the middle of work, looking dubiously at lab head Emii.
“What seems to be the matter, lab head Emii?”
A little while passed and the first one to ask the question was the one who’d known the man the longest- in other words, the person most accustomed to listening to his threatening shrieks- a certain assistant lab head Yurine. Of course, even for assistant lab head Yurine, something seemed off with Emii, and despite her usual cool composure, she seemed somewhat bewildered.
“The backup data is gone! Someone must have stolen it!”
Lab head Emii answered as if trying to raise hell.
The backup data was gone.
It sounded so stupid, for the next instant I failed to grasp the meaning of those words, but as expected, the three including assistant lab head Yurine reacted at once. They each stood from their seat in surprise… only to receive a reprimand.
“I told you not to move!”
Lab head Emii repeated.
“When you say gone… did you check carefully?”
Honda-san said as he reluctantly, rather begrudgingly took back his seat. From the start, he didn’t have the best relations with lab head Emii, but even if you subtracted that from the equation, the antipathy towards a superior who suddenly made a statement distrustful towards his comrades in arms was unbearable, it seems.
“And by backup, you mean the SD card, right? Couldn’t it have carelessly fallen under the desk or so…”
Hearing that, lab head Emii checked at his feet with a surprising amount of humility- the laboratory was a jumbled as usual, the area around each persons’ desk especially chaotic, so if it fell, surely the likes of a thin and small object such as an SD card would be difficult to find so quickly.
Thinking back, the fact that he obediently followed Honda-san… researcher Honda Eichi’s observation meant that lab head Emii had yet to check the floor, he had started such a tumultuous ruckus without so much as checking. Concurrently, if our lost item were to be found under his desk, then with some spite, everyone would take it as the usual false alarm, perhaps having a laugh over it another day, but unfortunately, the store was sold out of that plot.
“It’s really not there! And there’s no way it could be there because someone stole it!”
Lab head Emii exposed even greater anger. Put through a needless amount of work, his rage had been resuscitated.
“That can’t be… you’re saying one of us stole it? How terrible.”
The one speaking so sorrowfully was Gifube-san. She really looked like she would burst into tears. I did hold an impulse to rush over and support her up but unfortunately, as a man who could foresee the development that followed, no matter how guilt-tripped I was, I didn’t have the leisure to pay mind to researcher Gifube.
“Ah… no, but it’s not there! When it was definitely placed there not a moment ago!”
A different sort from Honda-san, Gifube-san’s quiet retreat flustered lab head Emii for a moment, but in the end he still returned to his own pet theory.
Even if it wasn’t under the desk, the thought he might be misunderstanding something seemed to be too far out to consider… I don’t want to speak ill of my own employer- especially not lab head Emii who hired someone like me, I could never do enough to thank him- but the man just had that side to him. Once he makes a decision, he can’t think of it any other way.
You could call his obstinacy a certain form of natural gift; it was precisely because of that gift he was properly achieving results, and without it, I doubt he’d have an entire laboratory left to him, but… it’s quite a hassle to be part of the surroundings he makes a mess of.
“Then let’s all search together, lab head. Shouldn’t that be fine?”
Assistant head Yurine proposed.
“A bounce could’ve sent it sliding elsewhere… if we split up and search, I’m sure it’ll be found.”
“… Very well. But until it’s found, I won’t allow anyone to leave this room.”
Compromising as it were, dripping with dissatisfaction, lab head Emii nodded… for the hour that followed, the five of us were taken off our usual duties, searching every crevice of the laboratory but if you’ll let me speak the conclusion, we didn’t achieve any results. If you call the lab’s grand cleaning no one was looking forward to a result, perhaps it was, but there was no way such an achievement would lower lab head Emii’s dander.
Still, now that it had come to that, we could no longer one-sidedly blame lab head Emii for abruptly shouting without any preface… as truth would have it, the SD card that contained a backup for the lab’s research data wasn’t anywhere in the room. That reckless theft accusation aside, the loss of a precious media in itself was definitely an event that transpired. The fact that lab head Emii, the very worst of us at keeping things in order, participated in the investigation made it all the more apparent.
“B-but even if it’s lost, it’s just a backup, right? If the original data on your computer is safe, then…”
As Honda-san attempted to soothe him,
“Whether it’s a backup or not, any information leaks and it’s over!”
He was promptly cut off and done away with.
Right, that was the problem.
The data on the lost SD card was put under a so-called confidential classification… apparently. As a new hire I don’t really get it, but that’s precisely why a thorough security and management system are imposed on this Emii Laboratory and this Sarashina research institute.
Even if it was just a backup, ‘Thank god the original data’s intact,’ wasn’t enough to cover it.
“Step forward already! Whoever stole it, if you speak up now, I’ll forgive you!”
No thief would even name themselves on those words, but still lab head Emii screeched it, sending a strong glare to the person positioned closest to him: me.
“Give it a rest, lab head. The fact it didn’t come out despite how hard we searched means the backup is certainly lost, but suspecting one of us is…”
As she said that, assistant head Yurine sent a worried glance at me.
“That’s right, while we’ve had our ups and downs, we’ve come all the way here together. Don’t say that any of us would put it all to waste… though it’s been only two months since our assistant came in.”
While he refuted lab head Emii’s words, at the end, Honda-san turned to me.
“But whatever the case, let’s all look through the room one more time. It’s not good to suspect people without any evidence. In dubio pro reo, they say. That’s right, no matter how suspicious he is, there’s no evidence.”
At the end of her spiel, as if mustering up her courage Gifube-san stood in front to protect me in an attempt to persuade our superior… and to me, “You’ll be alright,” she winked.
To summarize, everyone was looking at me.
Everyone was suspecting me.
Gifube-san alone was seemingly sticking up for me, but covering me in a situation like this held practically the same meaning as doubting me.
My voice shook. My body shook. My being showered with everyone’s attention, I felt like I would be rendered mute… but even so, I somehow managed to say what I had to. Just as a suspect would cry out to exercise their right to an attorney.
“P- please let me call a detective!”
…… Among mystery novel fans, there is a notion that has surpassed joke to the realm of cliché: ‘Travelling alongside a murderer with ill intent towards you is many times safer than traveling with a famed detective who sees you favorably.’
Dragged into complex cases wherever they go, exchanging banter with a great detective who’s encountered innumerable heinous crimes over the course of their lives; well, it might be an esprit of love, but even so, the complex cases they’re enraptured in wherever they go, the innumerable heinous crimes they encounter, they’re splendid enough to properly resolve them.
I’d like you to try imagining it.
Simply dragged into case after case, simply encountering heinous crimes… if there was an individual with nothing but that going for them, they would be the worst possible person to travel with.
No, that’s not all there is.
The detective isn’t me. I, Kakushidate Yakusuke am seen as the cause of all difficult cases enraptured and heinous crimes encountered… suspected as the culprit, doubted as a suspect, thought of as the ringleader, regarded as the man behind the curtain. Back in elementary school, whenever something went missing in class, do you remember one guy who everyone treated as the culprit without any real reason? It could be a him or a her, but that was my form in the days of yore. It can be a him or a her, but what do you think would happen if that person grew up just like that? That question is one I’ve used my lifetime to answer.
It’s absolutely nothing to brag about, but I’ve experienced a wide variety of trouble from my early years… every time, it would be made out as my fault, I would be the villain, everyone would blame me, and all souls present would hang me out to dry.
If you’ll let me be blunt, each and every one of them were false allegations, reasonless bashings, mistaken indictments my body had no recollection of. Of course I’m no saint, and I’ve no intent to assert I’m an amiable young man of upright and virtuous character, but over the course of my life, I’ve never once committed an act heinous enough for the sun to shy from me… as far as I know. Yet each and every time, somehow no matter what happens, I become the suspicious one.
It was like that from my student days, but after going out into society, it became striking… it’s brought trouble to my employment, and even now, I’m moving from job to job. Being suspect of a scandal and fired was of the better sort, and there was a time where a large majority of the company employees went missing and the company itself ceased to exist. Naturally that time as well, I was interrogated as a material witness.
Truth or lie, ever since that incident, I’ve heard rumor the public police are keeping constant surveillance of my movements… It’s not like I don’t feel sorry for so much taxpayer dollar being invested in a man with no hidden side or background, but that’s not something I myself can do anything about.
I’ve been told me taking on a timid attitude with my large body is what invites in the suspicion, but it’s not like I grew to one ninety centimeters because I wanted to, and it’s not like I’m fond of the character contained in this large build. If like some VIP my life was targeted and that’s what caused an incident I could accept it, but I’m a side character through and through.
Not a famed detective or famed criminal or gentleman thief.
In mystery novel terms, my name wouldn’t make it to character list at the front. Just a character actor coincidentally encountered at the scene. Suspecting someone like me is just a waste of time, and even if hypothetically I was the culprit, the author would be slandered for making the case too unfair to solve.
But if that ‘coincidentally’ repeated a hundred thousand times, anyone would think this guy is bad business… to be honest, even if I think so (by the way, a hundred thousand isn’t that great of an exaggeration). By that, I became a man even more easy to doubt in times of emergency, making me even more mindful of others’ eyes, and turning my attitude much more cowardly… causing people to suspect me more.
It’s a vicious cycle.
I should just give up, I was just born under the wrong star, but to live in a modern society where the connection between person and person is most important of all and trust holds more weight than anything, it is a destiny much too painful.
That being the case, it’s my life so I have to live it… to maintain a life with at least the minimum level of health and culture, I have to protect myself.
And the self-defense mechanism I’ve picked up is the hiring of detectives.
The detective hotline. The contact information of detectives I can count on if anything happens has been faithfully crammed into my cellphone… unlike novels and TV, they rarely encounter any real mysteries, and I’m in no way sparing with offering up pending cases.
It’s simply supply and demand. I am their regular customer, their usual, their habitue… and this is yet another thing that I take absolutely no pride in.
In regards to the missing Emii Laboratory backup data incident, in want of a great detective to clear up the suspicions placed upon me, I selected the head of the Okitegami Detective Agency, Okitegami Kyouko-san.
Among the great detectives I know, Kyouko-san boasts the greatest abilities… or not, but she’s still the most famous… no, I guess not. She doesn’t have a hundred percent success rate in crime-solving, and she’s not affiliated with any large organization (The Okitegami Detective Agency is just her personal office). If I had to phrase it without fear of misunderstanding, she’s an exceedingly quirky woman, and she’s by no means someone easy to use. But regardless, taking the various conditions into account, I really had no one but Kyouko-san to rely on this time around.
The reason being, as far as I knew, she was the ‘fastest’ detective… but even that ‘fastest’ was not the catchphrase used to signify her as a detective.
Her catchword: ‘Forgetful’.
“Umm, excuse me. Is this the laboratory of an Emii Kouro-san?”
Following a knock, a hesitant voice… after assistant head Yurine undid the lock, the one who entered the room was Kyouko-san.
A smallish build and plain clothing, the hair that topped it all off was white, so from afar it might look as if an elderly woman had made an appearance, but Kyouko-san was twenty-five, same as me. A close glance and her lustrous youth was enough to tell instantly.
The head of a detective agency, a proud and independent woman, and then there was someone constantly troubled for work, who would undoubtedly be fired from the Sarashina Research Institute the way things were going. The only point we really shared was our age, but… whatever the case, I rushed over.
I called out.
“Thank you for coming over, you’re a real lifesaver! It’s been a while, but I’m glad to see you look well! I know it’s not something to say at a time like this, but I’m happy to be able to see you again! Though I’d be happier if this wasn’t the situation…”
Overcome with emotion, I tried taking her hand, but Kyouko-san softly retracted it,
“Pleasure to meet you. Umm, who might you be?”
Relocking the door, assistant head Yurine looked over Kyouko-san’s reaction with wonder… it was only natural, the famed detective I sought help from with great fanfare was treating this like our first meeting.
But that one was my fault. I cleared my throat.
“I-I’m the requestor, Kakushidate. Kakushidate Yakusuke. I have been in your care a number of times.”
I divulged my history.
Not just with my mouth, I took out my license and presented it… while the exchange may have reeked of overacting, I was pressed for time.
Kyouko-san compared me with the details on the license, “Is that so,” she said without any particular emotion… to me, it may have been a ‘long-awaited reunion,’ but to she, the forgetful detective, this was our ‘first time meeting’. It would be mistaken to demand any deep emotion from her.
“Then once more. I am the head of the Okitegami Detective Agency, Okitegami Kyouko. This time… or is it this time as well? I have received your order, Kakushidate-san.”
Said Kyouko-san as she handed over a business card. I don’t even know how many cards I’ve received from her at this point.
She moved here and there around the room, to lab head Emii, to assistant head Yurine, to researcher Honda and researcher Gifube, “I’m Okitegami Kyouko,” “I’m Okitegami Kyouko” she went on to give her greeting… when it really was her first time meeting them, as expected of her to exchange cards starting with the highest ranking. Honda-san and Gifube-san were of the same rank, but Honda-san had been at the lab an extra year… regardless, they were of the same age, and I doubt that was something one could figure out without exchanging words.
Finishing her round of greetings, Kyouko-san returned to me.
“I have already heard the case. I just have to find the SD card containing the backup data of the research carried out in this room, do I? Meaning it’s a lost item search.”
She turned to lab head Emii and said gently.
Around two hours had transpired since the loss came to light, and while chief Emii had regained some composure more or less, it seems he had yet to escape from his ‘thief’ theory.
“That’s not all. Identify whoever stole it.”
“I see. But is that really so important?”
Kyouko-san spoke as if playing the fool. She was the same as ever… no, this person is never not the same as ever. Because even if her nature changes, it will quite quickly return to normal.
“What’s important is to prevent the disclosure of information, and not…”
“Don’t be stupid! There’s no way in hell I can work with a traitor!”
At the lab head’s yell, I made my body scarce… but Kyouko-san remained unconcerned, at most shrugging her shoulders. Threats and intimidation didn’t get through to her. I won’t forget the Set Sail Incident, where she didn’t move a single eyebrow at a real machine gun being thrust at her… of course, she’s already forgotten it.
“Understood. But the original request I took up from Kakushidate-san was to clear up the suspicions placed on him… if it turns out that Kakushidate-san is the culprit, that will go against the best interest of my requester.”
What is she even saying, this girl.
I thought, but it remained a thought.
Of course, in an occupation where she was to suspect any and everything, this was a clear show of mettle… very well, rather than someone who suspects only me, someone who suspects everyone is far better.
“… You mean to say, in the case Kakushidate-kun is the culprit, you’ll just be working for free? If that’s your concern, I think the research institute will take over the fee.”
Assistant head Yurine said. To someone like her who’d walked her way here on a respectable life, I’m sure she could only think the title of detective as a shady occupation.
“You couldn’t call that fair. In the case there is a culprit, meaning the loss of the backup data was a crime brought about by someone’s malicious intent, the research institute should take up the fee without exception. How does that sound?”
While Kyouko-san remained thoroughly calm, it might not have sounded like that, but they were talking about quite a serious amount of money… as a privately managed detective by trade, she was firm in that regard.
It’s not like we were in a sealed room where we’d have to pay in advance, and from her point of view, it was surely more worthwhile to make an accrued expense with a research institute rather than a youngster like me.
“But in the case that you’re unable to solve it…”
“Then I’m fine with working for free. That’s the sort of system our firm works under.”
It’s piecework payment, she said.
With a smile, Kyouko-san responded. That smile enveloped me with a sense of relief… of course, nothing had been resolved yet, so it was too soon for that. It wasn’t as if Kyouko-san was an omnipotent detective who could solve anything.
“More importantly… is this really alright?”
The one who posed Kyouko-san the question somewhat rudely was Honda-san. Rather than it being a problem with Kyouko-san, he had been sealed in the room over two hours and was getting a little irritated… while everyone held the same conditions, Honda-san boasted, next to lab head Emii, the second shortest temper. With lingering resentment, he was still strongly pushing the theory the loss was due to lab head Emii’s carelessness… therefore, it was only natural he felt the situation was considerably unfair.
“The reason an outsider was invited into the room was because Kakushidate-kun said you would be alright and gave his stamp of approval, but… I still wouldn’t want a detective tampering with this room full of confidential matters.”
“You needn’t worry about that. As you can see, I don’t carry a smartphone or camera on me.”
Kyouko-san spread out her arms as she said that.
It seems she had already undergone a body check at the institute’s entrance.
“What’s more… everything I see and hear today, I’ll have forgotten it all by tomorrow.”
Solve any case in a day.
Those were the words on the sign of the Okitegami detective agency, and at first when I was dragged into that ‘Many-Body Problem Incident’ I was fascinated by those words and jumped at them. But that phrase wasn’t meant to advertise the ‘fastest detective’, I soon learned it was to warn of the ‘forgetful detective.’
Detective, Okitegami Kyouko.
Her memory resets every day.
In medical terms, perhaps it’s a form of anterograde amnesia, but whatever the case, no matter what investigations she carries out, no matter what she hears, once she sleeps and wakes, she forgets it.
It doesn’t matter who she’s dealing with, it doesn’t matter the event.
It’s an endless repetition of first meetings and first experiences.
An inability to take charge of long-term cases is a fatal attribute for a detective but flipping that around, she could calmly tread into any manner of confidential matters, giving her an overwhelming advantage no other detective could hope to hold.
She’ll forget, after all.
The most certainty anyone else could hope for would be a detective’s work ethic, meaning there were no guaranteed means to maintain a duty of confidentiality… therefore, it is clients with troubles they can’t tell anyone about or circumstances that must never be disclosed that flood to her office.
She generally doesn’t accept cases that can’t be solved in a day, and with her nature, she doesn’t accept any work reservations. Her way of work had various pros and cons in the industry, but because of her system, she can answer sudden cries for help like this, so to me, she’s undoubtedly among my top detectives.
With misgivings of information disclosure and fear of scandals leaking out, lab head Emii had originally been reluctant to call a detective, but I strongly asserted those fears were unnecessary… I lie. In truth, I tried my best through an incoherent ramble.
Kyouko-san fluently explained that part.
“During the investigation, I will likely be calling you in turn to hear what you have to say, but have no fear. No matter what I’m told, no matter what I see, once I sleep and wake, I’ll forget it all. Even the business cards you’ve given me, once I’ve confirmed my payment, I shall return them. The fact you even met me, come tomorrow, it will disappear… at the very least to me.”
As Kyouko-san went on about such things with a beaming smile, Gifube-san looked on as if seeing something uncanny… that was the correct response. No matter the situation, I will forget about you tomorrow. No one could feel good after hearing such a thing… what’s more, in Kyouko-san’s case, that was a simple fact.
It was the same for me.
Every time we meet, when she says ‘Pleasure to meet you,’ it’s honestly painful… even more so when it has to be a wonderful woman like Kyouko-san.
Lab head Emii folded his arms.
“Got it. Okitegami-san, I’ll appoint you in the search for the culprit. I don’t mind if you hear out whatever you want to… but even so, there are some things in this room it would be troublesome for an amateur to touch carelessly. Whenever you’re about to touch something, make sure you get someone’s approval.”
“Understood. Hmm… Then there isn’t much time, so let’s get right to it. Can I borrow a place where I can hear people out one by one? I’d prefer a small private room.”
“A private room? I can’t approve of that. The culprit cannot leave this room. If the culprit goes outside, I fear the data will flow out with them. This room is cut off from the internet and cell signals, but there are places in the facility where that isn’t the case.”
“But this does not sound realistic. Driving everyone to fast without letting them use the restroom deserves the term unjust confinement. Any investigations carried out under such a state are close to meaningless. It’s akin to beating the information out of them.”
Lab head Emii wouldn’t budge, but neither would Kyouko-san. I’ll admit I might see her in a favorable light, but as she smiled and remained firm, it looked to me that Kyouko-san had the upper hand.
“I shall take responsibility and keep a close watch to make sure the person I’m investigating doesn’t take any peculiar action. If you have them undergo a body check whenever they leave the room, there shouldn’t be a problem.”
“… Very well, I’ll permit it.”
Lab head Emii said, given a bit of time.
The reason he jumped onto her proposal there was quite likely because he gained an excuse to carry out the body checks he had probably wanted to carry out from the start. With two of the room’s inhabitants being women, there was no way he could perform one, but with a third party, what’s more a woman like Kyouko-san to carry them out, he could save face.
To not suspect anyone unreasonably, after receiving too many false accusations, I know that best, but now that the item hasn’t been found after a full search of the room, we were dealing with a single small and flat SD card, and the probability someone had it on their person wasn’t low by any means.
“I’ll arrange so you can use a small meeting room… but Okitegami-san. Even if they prove innocent in the body check, I’ll have you promise not to take an eye off of them during the questioning.”
“Leave it to me.”
Kyouko-san smiled and nodded.
And she spoke.
“I definitely won’t forget it. Don’t worry, my memory’s on the better side… if it’s within the day.”
And so Kyouko-san began her detective work… the start time was five forty. Even if she’s supposed to solve any case in a day, that doesn’t strictly mean within twenty-four hours, it’s more specifically until ‘Kyouko-san falls asleep’.
As far as I know, Kyouko-san wakes up at six and sleeps at eleven, the proprietor of a decisively healthy life custom… taking that into consideration, this investigation might run until twelve at latest.
Searching for a single lost SD car, it might be simple to say, a small incident one might even think an everyday mystery, but the data contained on it was extensive, what’s more, it held a jokingly high value. It couldn’t quite be called everyday. If it developed into a responsibility problem, it’ll probably not be me but lab head Emii’s head that’ll fly, and in the worst-case scenario, this might tie into the continued existence of the Sarashina Research Institute. Thinking back on that, and just how intensely lab head Emii wailed, this wasn’t an incident he hoped to resolve in a day… we should proceed with caution and gone over the proper procedure to investigate the whereabouts of the SD card.
But without any evidence, the simple fact I was a new hire (Also the simple fact my behavior is suspicious) cast suspicion me, so now wasn’t the time for that… I had to give it my all to prove my own innocence.
Though I do find it sad that means leaving it to someone else.
If I had the capacity of a detective… it’s not like I never dreamed of it, but unfortunately, I know full well who I am. I know I’m no more than a side character. I’m even more sure of it after seeing a talent like Kyouko-san up close… only able to maintain a day’s worth of memory, given a fate that should make it difficult just to live her everyday life, a human like her who’s able to make a name for herself as a superior detective, that’s who people call a lead role.
“Now then, you’re the last one. Kakushidate-san. A pleasure to work with you, please come this way.”
Returning to the lab with assistant head Yurine who underwent the fourth questioning session, Kyouko-san beckoned to me… up to now, Kyouko-san had heard out lab head Emii, Gifube-san and Honda-san in that order.
I couldn’t tell if there was some meaning to this order… it didn’t seem to be by rank or age, and perhaps there was no meaning at all. But the fact I came last seemed to be clearly intentional.
Whatever the case, I tried to exit to the corridor when,
Or so Honda-san detained me.
“Isn’t it bad to leave Kakushidate-kun’s body check to Okitegami-san? He’s technically her employer.”
He spoke in a tone tying his actions to venting his frustration but I see, that did make sense. On top of a lack of evidence, as an adult with a sense of judgment, it wasn’t as if he seriously doubted me, but it seems he was unable to wipe away the feeling I was suspicious.
Resisting was a waste of time so, “Understood. Then whoever wants to can carry out my body check,” I threw it to the wind… if I took on a sullen attitude there, I knew the distrust towards me would only accelerate.
The two women refused, but Honda-san didn’t, and I even had the honor of lab head Emii personally groping around my body. Result: innocent.
Naturally so. I walked into the hallway with some piece of mind until,
“Umm, I haven’t carried out my check yet.”
Kyouko-san wouldn’t let me pass. She really is a firm person…
As she was meeting me for the first time, it would be irrational to ask her to trust me, so I obediently followed her lead… unlike lab head Emii and Honda-san, this one was a skillful body check that hit all the essentials.
“Yes, you’re clear. Please come this way.”
Kyouko-san led me to the small meeting room. I had rarely stretched my feet to the floors beyond the Emii laboratory, and it was also the first time I ever entered that meeting room. Rather than a small meeting room, it was arranged more like an interrogation room (I’ve entered real ones of those a number of times)… being alone with Kyouko-san in such a narrow room sped up my heart just a bit.
But those were one-sided feelings on my side; from her point of view, being alone in a narrow room with a mysterious suspicious-acting giant she was meeting for the first time was surely not an environment anyone would find pleasant. Not that she showed it. She was unconcerned as ever.
“Kakushidate Yakusuke-san. I already got the opportunity to hear you out when I received your call, but there are a number of things I’d like to confirm once more.”
Kyouko-san swiftly entered the main subject… to her, time was many times more valuable than it was to any of us. It was no exaggeration to say our lives were no more than a day to her.
“You say you’ve become acquainted with me a number of times, but please do not let your mind wander there. Even if there is something you wish to reminisce over, please restrain yourself as much as you can… the episodes of you and me are ones I’ve never seen.”
That distancing remark was a little saddening but I convinced myself it couldn’t be helped. That’s what makes her the forgetful detective, Okitegami Kyouko.
“How long have you worked at this Sarashina Research Institute?”
“From around two months ago… I was hired as an assistant. But even if you call me a lab assistant, I don’t know any of the technical stuff. Organizing the data, brewing tea, taking out the trash, I get the feeling all the odd jobs are left to me, but…”
The more I spoke, the more it started sounding like an excuse. It was my bad habit. I’ve been doubted so much on all sides the excuses started looking more decent. But the reason I had lost my composure here and now wasn’t because of the suspicions directed towards me, perhaps it was because Kyouko-san was staring at me so intently.
“A-anyhow, I’m someone who doesn’t know anything and the fact they hired me is… er rather, we can’t have all the smart researchers taking care of the trivial stuff.”
“I see. So they hired you for the same reason they trust an investigator who’ll forget everything by tomorrow.”
While I worried her phrasing had become cynical, like that, Kyouko-san showed her approval.
I was just a bit happy, it was a slight load off my mind.
I’m sure it was impossible to line me up with a talent like Kyouko-san, but the factor that decided our hiring, in this case, perhaps it really was somewhat similar.
“I got sacked from my last job, and when I was troubled with finding work, an acquaintance who knows some people introduced me to lab head Emii… I thought I’d be able to pull it off here.”
No, I wonder.
Perhaps I thought it would someday come to this, just as it always has… though it happened far too early, far earlier than I expected.
“Well then, there’s something I must ask precisely because of your position. No, the other four have told me plenty on the subject, but the words of a specialist are often too hard for an outsider to understand…”
Kyouko-san doesn’t take memos. She doesn’t make recordings, and she doesn’t organize investigation records on a laptop… she inputs it all into her head. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be able to reset once the case is closed, but even if it lasted just a day, perfectly memorizing five peoples’ worth of oral questioning, her memory was fearsome after all.
And since she forgot it all by the next day, it was a complete mismatch.
“In the first place, what is this Sarashina Research Institute even researching?”
“Various things, apparently… I hear it’s got a lot to do with imaging and optics. Research is divided up, so I only have limited knowledge of what the other stations are researching but the Emii laboratory is mainly charged with stereopsis, it seems.”
With so many uncertainties, even I could tell my testimony was no use but Kyouko-san nodded as she went on.
“Stereopsis, is it?”
She repeated my words.
“Yes. To put it plainly, they’re looking into 3D technology… um, you can see it in movies and stuff, right?”
“Ah. Where you put on those glasses…”
As she said that, Kyouko-san touched the round glasses on her face.
“It’s annoying having glasses on glasses so I don’t really go for them.”
Even if she did, she’s forget it.
“The research lab head Emii is doing is to enable anyone from any seat to see an image in 3D without having to wear glasses. Well, with 3D imaging, there’s holograms and other various things, but… where we are now, if you want to make a 3D movie, you’ll need to tape with a special camera, and that alone eats considerably into the budget, but if you use the new techniques lab head Emii is proposing, that cost can be cut to less than a tenth or something…”
It’s all secondhand knowledge, what’s more, I myself don’t understand it, so I’ve no idea how accurate this explanation is, but in her attempt to understand it, “I see,” Kyouko-san said.
“Being able to see a movie in 3D without having to wear those strange-colored glasses sounds wonderful.”
By strange-colored glasses, what might she be pointing to… I’d like to think not, but is she referring to those red and blue cellophane things?
I can’t determine how far Kyouko-san’s memory is reset with every sleep… the memories lost are one day’s worth. If you phrase it like that, it might not seem a lot, but if that continued on a year, that would mean she’s lost a year’s worth of memory.
I first met Kyouko-san two years ago, but at that point, she had already stopped piling memories for a long time. The more time passes by, the more the time stream leaves her behind. It was inevitable she couldn’t perfectly understand the subject matter of an institute researching the latest technology.
With the conditions of confidentiality and speed, Kyouko-san was the only detective I could depend on this time, but from her perspective, I might have requested a job she’s unsuited for… all would be well if I could cover for her, but I can’t even fulfill the role of Watson.
“… But if it’s lab head Emi’s original construct, then even if the stereopsis data leaks out, would it really be so troubling? Even if they knew, would another be able to recreate it?”
“That’s not the case. I’ll be borrowing assistant head Yurine’s words here, but the base of lab head Emii’s research is a change in thought process. An innovation by combining already-existing technology in an unexpected pairing… if that method ever makes it way outside, it will go ahead in no time.”
Even if it was just for odd jobs, the fact they hired someone like me made it clear the Sarashina Research Institute was by no means a large organization- in a competition of power games with a large corporation, it had no chance of victory. Wringing out knowledge, proceeding things behind closed doors and stabbing into a blind spot was the only tactic they could take, that’s precisely why information was life or death.
“I see, then this really is an estimated loss of several hundred million yen… ah, that sum was one Honda-san presented.”
“It’s not a problem of money, I think everyone’s afraid all the research they did will go poof…”
That fear was something a new hire, a non-specialist like me couldn’t understand. But that I doubt they could understand the fear of someone doubted without reason either.
“… As a general investigation policy, as things stand, I still think it’s reasonable to look at this as a simple loss due to carelessness, but if the data is so important, I also feel there’s no way Emii-san would lose it. That’s something I’ve heard from everyone so far.”
From that stereotypical preface, I thought she would ask about my alibi, but it seems that wasn’t the case.
“If someone did steal the SD Card, who do you think it would be.”
Straight on, er rather, it was a considerably intrusive question. Did Kyouko-san ask this to everyone? Then I’m sure everyone answered Assistant Kakushidate…
“I don’t know. I don’t think anyone has a motive…”
I answered honestly. If I could give a clear answer here, I’d be the one playing the detective.
“If the lab closes down, everyone will lose their jobs.”
“But if they brought the data in question along, couldn’t another institution hire them?”
“It’s a small industry. If you do something like that, you’ll be outed in no time.”
Of course, if you’re going to do it, do it in a way you won’t get found out, but even for that, the risk was too high. It was a bit too far to be an action for profit.
“You have a point. Then how about we think about this as an offense committed by someone with a grudge towards Emii-san? Completely neglecting any financial gains, simple harassment.”
They concealed research data because they wanted to see the lab head in a fluster? It seems in too bad taste for mischief…
“Thinking of the data’s value, naturally, it wouldn’t end with just a spot of mischief. You couldn’t call it simple bad taste either. It has all the qualifications of a criminal case.”
Kyouko-san said plainly. Her ethics were clear in these matters… she wasn’t the sort of detective who praised criminals as artists.
“But if you think about it like that, then some things can be explained. Instead of taking it out of the room, they only intended to conceal it somewhere within… they might have even crushed and disposed of it. In that case, they wouldn’t ever have to worry about being exposed.”
“It’s true lab head Emii’s conduct may be overbearing… I can’t say he’s good at dealing with people, but I don’t think he was hated enough to receive any harassment with such ill intent.”
Being labeled a thief, surely everyone’s mood would take a shot, but they were all aware his conduct was something stemming from his genius- they weren’t seriously irritated, it was just ‘the usual’.
“Right, that’s what everyone said.”
Kyouko-san all-too-easily went into her own theory.
“If the real data was stolen or damaged, it would mean this action was to obstruct Emii-san’s research, but the SD card lost was- to that end- a backup. Though it seems Emii-san has no intent to discard the possibility. He’s apparently well aware of his lack of popularity… then let me change the question. Who do you think is most likely not to be the culprit?”
Another peculiar question from Kyouko-san.
I spoke whatever came to mind.
“I know very well that I’m not the culprit, but if I exclude myself… first off, lab head Emii can’t be it. He’s the real victim here. The one who’s known him the longest, assistant head Yurine is the second least suspicious. With her office, she’ll have to take joint responsibility, and the damage she suffers is something similar. Honda-san and Gifube-san are…”
There, I struggled for my words.
If I decided the third least suspicious person, I would simultaneously have to decide the fourth. Meaning I would be labeling the most suspicious person… without any definite evidence. It was what had been done to me, the most painful thing of all… I couldn’t do that to another.
Taking in my silence, Kyouko-san,
“Kakushidate-san, you’re a kind person I see.”
I was happy to hear that from someone like Kyouko-san, but just as it had been with the last time she told me that, when I think of how she’ll forget me and any evaluations of me come tomorrow, it really does feel lonely.
I spoke to shake off that feeling.
“Honda-san and Gifube-san see each other as rivals. They’re both the same age, and I’m sure they’re somewhat conscious of one another. It feels like they’re having some sort of competition. Honda-san’s been at the company longer, but it seems assistant head Yurine sees Gifube-san higher… those discrepancies are only accelerating their contest. I think it’s a healthy relationship, but it’s a bit suspenseful to watch.”
Or so I forcefully ended my list with information not particularly relevant to the case.
“I’ll keep that in mind. Thank you. Hmm… then let’s leave the questioning at that, and begin the actual investigation of the room.”
There, Kyouko-san looked at her wristwatch.
The hand of her analog watch signaled it had become six. Meaning until the time limit, we had…
“I’d like to get back by nine, so three hours to go.”
My thoughts were naïve, it did seem Kyouko-san intended to retire to bed at her usual time… I couldn’t tell how serious she was as she smiled and said.
“Late nights are the enemy of beauty.”
As a result of the first investigation carried out by the laboratory members, the room was in a considerably more organized state, but that was only in comparison to its previous chaotic state, and when looked on objectively, the laboratory was still a mess.
I thought spotting a single SD card within it would be a herculean task for a layman’s eye, but Kyouko-san,
“When hiding something, people can’t help but conceal them where they’re easiest to find.”
Went into investigative work with a good grasp of the concept… ignoring all the places we searched with scrupulous care, she went for the places we would never think of, for example, within the pages of the books lining the shelves, under the computer keyboards, she searched through those sorts of places.
As expected of a professional, everyone present held the honest impression, but looking at it the other way, if what we carried out was a lost item search, then what Kyouko-san was searching for was something intentionally concealed. Her work was closer to a treasure hunt.
It seems after hearing out everyone’s stories, rather than a careless misplacement, she was placing more weight on the possibility someone hid it with malice aforethought… or she might possibly have just wanted to eliminate that possibility as quickly as possible.
But after searching so hard, with nothing coming out in a careful body check, this really was somewhat strange- in the time Kyouko-san searcher, it grew considerably awkward between the five lab members who couldn’t quite help her out.
Right, while it didn’t come out in my talk with Kyouko-san, it’s not like the possibility lab head Emii orchestrated this farce wasn’t non-existent.
Perhaps his work reached a standstill and he was filled with an urge to throw something, or the data he carelessly lost elsewhere, he made it so he lost it here to escape or distribute responsibility. In that case, no matter how hard we searched the lab, there was no way the SD card would ever come out.
Even someone as incompetent as me knows the devil’s proof: it’s easy to prove what’s there, it’s difficult to prove what isn’t. Even if the SD card isn’t found in this room, that’s no proof the card isn’t in this room.
“It can’t be that Emii-san only ever uses a single SD Card, right? Is it possible it got mixed in with the other cards, or switched out?”
Pulling out a cabinet drawer, Kyouko-san searched not the contents but what was further in the cabinet as she directed the question to no one in particular.
“That much has already been confirmed. I wouldn’t make such an elementary mistake.”
Lab head Emii gave a disheartened answer.
It seems he really wasn’t pleased with an outsider investigating around the laboratory you could call his own domain.
“Is that so. But just in case, everyone else should look through all the SD cards they use. If it’s the research data itself, it’s best I don’t go touching it.”
Certainly, SD cards were bought in bulk as consumable items, they couldn’t be distinguished by appearance. While labels were stuck on them and symbols were drawn on the cases, if anyone was up to it, I’m sure there are innumerable means to fabricate it.
You could call it a blind spot if you wanted to.
“Ah, b-but… if the backup data’s slipped been mixed up with the SD cards someone has on hand, would that make that person the culprit?”
Gifube-san asked anxiously.
“No, there’s no guarantee. It’s possible the culprit just slipped it in as a temporary hiding spot. If you want to hide a tree, do it in the forest as the old saying goes.”
To hide an SD card, hide it among SD cards?
That may be true. A backup containing important research is one thing, but the treatment of other storage media, in this workplace its quite often they’re arbitrarily handled as consumable items. Perhaps inevitable.
To mix it up among them, I see, that is a good way to hide it… I haven’t been granted a PC in this facility, so naturally, I don’t have any SD cards on hand, so the most I could do was brew a refill of coffee for everyone, but the others began moving in accordance with Kyouko-san’s orders.
Of course, that didn’t mean everyone was checking their own files, it went that a single card was checked over by the other three.
A daring hiding place.
Indeed a detective’s viewpoint, or rather, if I was the culprit, it was the sort of idea that might get me around to thinking ‘I should’ve just done that’. But looking at the result, even after checking through all the SD cards presented, the backup data wasn’t found.
Perhaps the file names had simply been changed, Honda-san pointed out, so they went out of their way to open each and every file and check through it, but they were all in the clear… in exchange for all the time wasted, nothing was gained.
“We don’t need to go as far as to look through the brand new cards still in their packaging, right?”
As assistant head Yurine said that with a slightly cynical tone, Kyouko-san spoke not particularly discouraged.
“Yes, that should be fine.”
Bold, or perhaps brazen if you wished to speak ill. Someone might take it as arrogance, but it was a steadfast attitude… well, to Kyouko-san who’ll forget about everyone by tomorrow, perhaps she simply isn’t scared of being hated by anyone.
“I’ve just finished my search as well.”
“Eh? By which you mean…”
Lab head Emii leaned himself forward.
“I’ve taken a look through everything, but I haven’t found the SD card you’re looking for.”
By that time, it was already seven in the evening.
The time limit Kyouko-san thought up would come in two hours… even if she said late nights were the enemy of beauty, this was the girl who stayed up three nights straight to solve the ‘Kite Chain Murder Case’. Even if that was the exception, say the case continues going through stormy waters, I’d like to believe she’ll at least stay awake until tomorrow morning, but…
“Oy, oy, just what was the point of this time? This farce? Are you really a famous detective?”
Honda-san drew closer as if to start something but she smoothly avoided- simply ignored- him as she approached me.
Of course, it did not seem she thought to be protected by me, “Kakushidate-san, can I have a short meeting with you?” she invited me into the hall.
“I’ve roughly deduced the location of the backup data. But where we are now, it is impossible to logically identify the culprit.”
After receiving an even more scrupulous body-check from lab head Emii and Honda-san, I left the room once more and headed to the small meeting room with Kyouko-san, but as soon as I took my seat she started into it.
She said it so simply I thought I might have misheard…
“Eh? So you did it? But didn’t you just say you didn’t find–”
“It’s true that I didn’t find it. Rather, its because I didn’t find it that I have a general idea of where it must be. But I don’t know the culprit.”
“Culprit… which means this time’s loss really was an offense brought by someone’s ill intent?”
“Yes, so it seems. Well, I won’t say it’s absolute… but it’s still unknown who did it.”
Quite anxious over not knowing the culprit, Kyouko-san spoke quite apologetically… but from my point of view, just knowing the whereabouts of the backup data was plenty reason to rejoice.
“That isn’t the case. The request I undertook was to wash away the dishonor done by the suspicion placed on you, Kakushidate-san. The way things are going, I won’t be able to.”
“What do you mean by that? If you’ve found the data, then–”
“Not knowing who the culprit is means, just like the other four, it is possible for you to be the culprit.”
“Rather, more so, the situation will only worsen. When it could have just been a careless blunder… as you said, to this point that possibility was highest, but from the hiding place I can deduce, all I can prove is that someone did it intentionally.”
That’s… definitely not good.
It’s definitely not good for me, but it’s also terrible for the laboratory as a whole… finding the data will only leave the root of the problem that, ‘someone did it but we don’t know who’.
I wouldn’t want to borrow lab head Emii’s words, but in such a discomforting situation, there’s no way they could do any proper work.
“And so, I need some more details from you. I need you to tell me about the human relations within the laboratory.”
“From me? … You mean from everyone, don’t you? I’m just the first one you called in.”
“No, from here on out, I shall be placing my hopes on you. I have decided to trust you.”
On those words I noticed.
Come to think of it, in that last body-check when I left the room, Kyouko-san didn’t take part… was that a show of trust towards me?
“D-do you mean you’re trusting your client?”
“Clients tell lies. I generally work under that one-sided assumption. But in our exchanges up to now, I have determined you are an honest, steady person incapable of telling a lie.”
I’m rarely ever told something like that.
Rather, my life’s been nothing but hearing the opposite… I’ve lived on even doubted by my parents. I can easily count the number of times someone’s said they trust me.
Sadly, no, should I be happy? Almost all of those times came from Kyouko-san, but… no matter how much she trusts me, by the next time we meet, she’ll have forgotten. As long as it isn’t an incident like this one, the reason I don’t call Kyouko-san to put in a request is simply because it’s much too painful.
But as I thought, being trusted by something is something to be happy about.
“And so, Kakushidate-san. From your observations, it doesn’t matter how detailed, no, make it as detailed as you can, in the episodes you’ve seen up to now, please tell me about the personality, nature, personal history, and family relations of lab head Emii Kouro, assistant head Yurine Yuuko, researcher Honda Eichi and researcher Gifube Nagame.”
Disregarding my mental state practically moved to tears, Kyouko-san went on crisply… she didn’t seem to mind her bedtime, I’m sure she thought staying away from the room with me too long would make the culprit suspicious.
“I think I’ll try probing for a motive… for example, is there anyone with financial circumstance? With relatives? With acquaintances in the same trade… perhaps?”
“Hmm… nothing’s coming to mind.”
Even if she places her expectations on me, a new hire like me has yet to break the ice with any of them. I’ve only eaten out with them a few times. If it’s about the games or manga they like, then I know a bit, but I highly doubt the titles Honda-san and Gifube-san like hold any relevance to this case.
“No… that sort of… info that looks irrelevant at a glance… can prove surpri… singly…”
By the time I noticed, it was too late.
Just that abruptly, the eyes beyond Kyouko-san’s glasses had gone drowsy… her blinks became unnaturally numerous. Her head that had started nodding form who knows when was supported up by the elbow she placed against the table.
“Kyo… Kyouko-san! You can’t!”
I didn’t make it in time.
By the time I pushed back my chair to stand and reached a hand to shake her shoulders, she broke down and fell prostrate on the desk with good momentum. Her head received a hearty blow, a considerable sound resounding through the small conference room, but after that, she showed not a twitch… I soon heard a gentle sleeper’s breath.
I fell into despair as I moved across the narrow room, grasping Kyouko-san’s arms from the outside and lifting her body… she hit her head so strongly I was worried, but it seems only her forehead made contact and her glasses weren’t broken.
Still, she was soundly… asleep.
She was peacefully sleeping.
This can’t be, it’s much too fast.
It wasn’t even eight yet… I thought as- a bit late- I shook Kyouko-san’s body.
It didn’t seem to be that deep of a sleep, as I shook her she faintly opened her eyelids.
And the first thing to come out of her mouth.
With the complete eyes of one looking at a stranger.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you. Who are you? Where is this?”
I instantly removed my hands from her.
I couldn’t bear the thought of her thinking I was trying to assault her in her sleep… as I retreated so far I was stuck to the wall, just how did Kyouko-san see me? Did she think me even more suspicious? For now she simply stared.
“M-my name is Kakushidate Yakusuki… Y-your client and I’m, no I mean, you’re at the Sarashina Research Institute.”
My tongue was tangled and I couldn’t explain at all.
Feeling a shock at the trust I was supposed to have gained being lost so quickly, I was completely stunned.
Kyouko-san moved her eyes,
She took her gaze off of me. Her motions were as if to say, ‘not worth my time’ and abandon me.
It was a terribly sorrowful truth, but at the very least, Kyouko-san had determined on the spot I was harmless enough. But such salvation, when looking at the big picture, was dangerously trivial.
Kyouko-san had already completely lost her memories from up to a moment ago… I can’t go as far back as yesterday, but she had completely forgotten everything that happened from when she likely woke up at six in the morning.
The fact I called her for help, the fact she came to this research institute to investigate… and more than anything, her splendid deduction, the whereabouts of the lost SD card.
All the work she had done up to now, all her detective work had been returned to nothingness.
Forget that, Kyouko-san’s current mental state was, ‘I was supposed to be asleep in my own bed, and yet when I got up, I was in an unfamiliar room with a completely unfamiliar man’… if I was in her position I’d raise a scream of dismay.
But Kyouko-san’s face was grim as she entered wary mode, her actions were the epitome of levelheadedness… she instantly rolled up the sleeve of the cardigan and inner shirt she wore.
A slender, white left arm.
All over the forearm, in black, thick magic pen strokes it was written.
‘I am Okitegami Kyouko. 25 years old. Head of Okitegami Detective Agency. White hair, wear glasses. Memory resets every day.’
More clear than a license, it was a self-identification by her own hand… it was her own handwriting, there was no way she would mistake it.
“I am Okitegami Kyouko. 25 years old. Head of Okitegami Detective Agency. White hair, wear glasses. Memory resets every day.”
Reading through that passage, Kyouko touched a finger to her glasses and confirmed the color of her hair… she gave a satisfied nod. She overlapped with her personal information.
So in preparation for an unfamiliar situation, Kyouko-san had her own sort of back-up… while I’d sought help from Kyouko-san a number of times, it was the first time I ever learned she was so prepared.
So as not to forget it, an elementary schooler might use the back of their hand as a reminder note, was it a variation of that… when she didn’t take any notes and didn’t carry a cell phone, there’s no way she wouldn’t be worried about how to deal with a situation where she didn’t fall asleep in her own bedroom, and thinking back on it, there’s no way a great detective like her wouldn’t have taken countermeasures for the situation I most feared. Was it something of a letter from her departed past self… as I admired it, Kyouko-san swiftly moved to her next action.
Perhaps her thought process went as follows.
My memories are inconsistent… but if it was me, wouldn’t I have done something in preparation for this situation? For example, leaving a message on my left arm for future me.
And seeing how the information aligned with her expectations, she thought this… if it’s true I’m an individual whose memory resets every day, this can’t be the only message I left behind.
With her right hand, Kyouko-san pinched the left side of her long skirt that went down to her ankles, boldly pulling it up… to where I could just barely not see her undergarments.
There, written in the same pen as on her left arm it was written.
‘Currently on the job’
“Currently on the job”
As if to reinput the data.
I heard the skirt fall to its normal position, I turned from the wall back to Kyouko-san… whatever the case, I thought I had to say something, but by that time, Kyouko-san had already silently taken her next action.
It was yet another artistically bold move, and I was on the verge of averting my eyes, but I failed. Lifting up her outer garment, on her exposed abdomen, in a fine red pen different than the one used for the previous portions, it was written.
‘Kakushidate Yakusuke-san. Height over 190cm. 25 years old. Client. Ask for specifics. You can trust him’
“Kakushidate Yakusuke-san. Height over 190cm. 25 years old. Client. Ask for specifics. You can trust him”
You can trust him.
She read over only that portion twice… before Kyouko-san turned to me.
And she spoke.
“My apologies, Kakushidate-san.”
Standing from her chair, she quickly lowered her head… while she still seemed uncomfortable, from that attitude, her wariness had faded.
“Can you please tell me the situation?”
The message on her left arm was one she probably constantly renewed, the message on her left leg had to be written when she received my request and left her office… and the words on her stomach had to be written sometime on the job.
While the empty-handed Kyouko-san didn’t take notes, she could at least find a pen in the laboratory… does this mean she measured out the right time to write it in preparation for the million to one chance?
After that, before hearing me out, Kyouko-san checked all over her body, but it did seem the messages from the departed, or from her past self… those dying message-like vanishing notes ended with those three.
Meaning she determined it would be fine just to hear the specifics from me- even if that was something that made me quite happy, even if I was unpopular enough to cry, unfortunately, I had still yet to hear the SD card location Kyouko-san deduced. If this was how it was going to be, I should’ve asked that before anything else.
All I could explain was the situation leading to her present state, meaning her deductions had returned to nil. I had to explain to Kyouko-san ‘all her work had been for nothing’.
“Don’t worry about it, this isn’t your fault. It’s the fault of my own inattention.”
Said Kyouko-san… inattention?
Sure enough, she did fall asleep on the job, but I thought it a bit off to express that as inattention. Right, perhaps Kyouko-san simply didn’t tell me, but had pulled an all nightery the previous night… perhaps that’s why she slept there?
“No, I don’t think I’d be the sort to accept new work in a sleep-deprived state. If you want to request for someone in an incomplete state, I can introduce you to a trustworthy person in my trade. I was most likely drugged.”
Kyouko-san declared it and asked me.
“Kakushidate-san. Did I consume anything while on the job?”
“… No, nothing but a spot of instant coffee.”
“Then that has to be it.”
Kyouko-san gave a satisfied nod.
“I think I left this message fearing violence in a situation where the culprit is nearby.”
Said Kyouko-san with a lift of her shirt. Seeing me avert my eyes, “My apologies,” she immediately returned it.
“But to be put to sleep… it seems one of those four knows about me well. The fact that putting me to sleep renders me helpless.”
“No, until I explained, no one seemed to know about you.”
“Then it may have been a quick wit at work… but it’s possible to play the fool. By your word, Honda-san teased, ‘Are you really a famous detective?’… if that were to come from someone who didn’t know me at all, that line feels a tad unnatural.”
She did have a point.
Then Honda-san knew about Kyouko-san? No, while I was in this meeting room, it’s possible a separate someone told him about it.
Even if the laboratory is cut off from the net, we live in an information society; it wouldn’t be strange if one, or even all of them knew about the extraordinary oddball known as the forgetful detective…
While it might have slipped their mind, they might have remembered when they saw her in person… that being put to sleep was her greatest weakness.
As a matter of fact, even just in the Okitegami Kyouko’s adventures I’m aware of, there were countless occasions where the culprit used all sorts of means to put her to sleep. In Kyouko-san’s case, when someone wanted to seal her mouth or obstruct her deductions, there was no need to brave the risks involved in killing her… without going so far, all they needed to do was somehow put her to sleep.
Sleeping gas, alcohol, lowered oxygen levels, anesthesia, soothing musing, a comfortable massage, in that one idiotic place, they even tried hypnosis.
In this case, a sleeping drug?
I’m the one who brewed the coffee, if they smeared a drug in the cup for visitor use… but a sleeping drug wasn’t something that could be prepared so conveniently.
“There are various drugs that can put you to sleep. Cold medicines and anxiety pills could be called sleeping pills if the need were to arise. Taking them makes you sleepy. I probably rarely take that sort of medicine, so I think the effects would be higher than usual.”
And if she (probably) rarely took them, she wouldn’t be able to identify it if it were to be mixed in… I’m dubious whether or not Kyouko-san even remembers the ‘right taste’ of coffee.
“If it’s cold medicine, there may have been some in the room.”
I get the feeling I saw some in our first search. An over the counter sort… meaning anyone could use it, and it would be difficult to pinpoint the culprit through that.
Dammit. Which means we’re back to stage one.
No, not even at stage one- Kyouko-san deduced the hiding place of the SD card from hearing out everyone’s take, and taking honest time and effort searching the room with her own hands and eyes.
But if she said she wanted to do the same thing once more, those four wouldn’t agree. When it came to the search of the room, Kyouko-san personally said she, “didn’t find anything”… if she said she wanted to do it again from the start, they’d grow fed up of putting up with her.
“It’s not stage one, Kakushidate-san. At the very least, at present, the fact that the culprit is among those four is certain. A certain someone who found it inconvenient if I wasn’t put to sleep.”
“T-that’s definitely true, but…”
Even after her memories were reset, I was happy that Kyouko continued on under the assumption I wasn’t the culprit, but if that’s all the information we had, it would be difficult to advance. Having to redo the investigation was fatal.
“No, Kakushidate-san. There is no need to redo the investigation. If you’re talking about fatal, then the culprit did make one fatal mistake.”
“When it comes to mysteries, laying hands on the detective is against the rules. If they plan to break the rules, then I shall have to do the same.”
Kyouko-san said with a gentle smile.
But her eyes weren’t laughing in the slightest.
“Since I’m going to lose it anyway, they thought so light of messing with my memories. The culprit shall definitely receive their comeuppance. Let us return, Kakushidate-san. It will only take a second to clear the suspicions surrounding you and resolve this incident.”
The fastest detective showed her mettle.
And right after that, now please lead me to the laboratory, she said… she didn’t know where it was. That wasn’t all, she didn’t remember the faces of lab head Emii or vice head Yurine, researcher Honda or researcher Gifube.
Yet regardless, she said she would resolve it in a second… normally I would take it as a bluff, but as I’d been saved countless times by Kyouko-san, I knew it was just the plain truth.
On the contrary, didn’t they know?
Whoever they are, the culprits that put Kyouko to sleep, don’t they ever learn that while being her weakness, it’s what invites in her imperial wrath? There hasn’t been a single culprit who hasn’t been arrested after forcefully putting Okitegami Kyouko to sleep…
Eight in the afternoon.
“Thank you for waiting, let’s get to solving this.”
Kyouko-san said with an innocent look. It was an attitude that didn’t give anyone the sense she had lost all memory she had up to a moment ago… I had told her everyone name and features beforehand, so perhaps she knew who was who in the room, but even so, this was cold.
It was suspenseful to watch.
The culprit who drugged her’s heart must be racing as they wondered if the medicine didn’t work… as a retort against a detective novel’s promised, ‘gathering everyone together to say the conclusion,’ I get the feeling I’d definitely never take part in such a gathering if I really was the culprit, but as all involved parties were confined in one room, the culprit had no choice but to attend. Kyouko-san told me to suppress them if the culprit grew overly rowdy… it seems that upon receiving that message from ‘Yesterday’s Kyouko-san’, ‘Today’s Kyouko-san’ had a tendency to trust me too much. It was an honor, but I’m not as accustomed to fighting as my appearance might suggest, so I don’t know if I can manage… that being the case, there was no way I could decline.
So it didn’t matter who she said the culprit was, I paid mind to everyone.
“Solving… which means you know who the thief is?”
“Is there a culprit among us?”
“More importantly, where’s the SD card? We have to find it.”
“… I’d like to go home sometime soon.”
Lab head Emii, assistant head Yurine, Honda-san and Gifube-san all spoke in turn… They all seemed half in doubt, but judging by their reactions, I doubt anyone would think Kyouko-san had yet to identify the culprit and that she’d forgotten the hiding place of the SD card.
“This might be a place to study stereopsis, but… in the end, humans only see what they want to see.”
Saying such a suggestive thing (the knowledge on stereopsis had already left her head), Kyouko-san paced through the room… she had the five of us- me included- sit, and loitered as if to pass between us.
Everyone turned their necks to follow her, but as if to evade their stares, she drew a soft path as her feet stopped where no one expected.
It was before the desk of lab head Emii from where the SD card disappeared… or not, beside the computer of assistant head Yurine who knew him longest… or not, behind the seat of Honda-san who didn’t get along with him… or not, to the side of the locker belonging to Gifube-san, the only one who stuck up for me… or not.
It was before a hot water dispenser placed over a low bookshelf by the window. There were cups and other assorted things placed around, it was a spot to brew instant coffee or tea. I had used it a moment ago… the drugged coffee Kyouko-san drank was brewed there.
Was she going to go at it from that angle? I just didn’t notice it, but there was only one person who could’ve laced the coffee? But revealing that would be a double-edged sword- meaning Kyouko-san would have to reveal the fact she lost her memories to the wide open world. Who would ever trust a detective who loses their memories in the middle of an investigation?
But contrary to my worries, Kyouko-san calmly took the hot water pot in hand, holding it as if embracing it to her chest.
“As standard procedure, before I reveal the culprit’s name, I’ll start with the important facts. I’d like to make clear the whereabouts of the SD card.”
“The truth is, when I searched the room and said I didn’t find it, that was a lie. Truth be told, at that point I already knew where it was- what’s more, I confirmed it with my own eyes.”
Confirmed it with those eyes?
What sort of lie is that?
I don’t think she even identified its location with one hundred percent accuracy, and those memories are currently gone… what’s more, there’s no way she could have seen it.
“And is the data safe?”
Oblivious of that… or perhaps putting on a performance… lab head Emii spoke, and to his words, Kyouko-san shook her head.
“In the sense of it being leaked outside, it’s safe, but unfortunately, the backup data itself wasn’t so fortunate. The reason being…”
Her gaze dropped to the pot in her hands.
“At present, the SD card you are looking for is inside this pot… in hot boiling water.”
“Eeh!?” “Eeh!?” “Eeh!?” “Eeh!?” “Eeh!?”
At the moment everyone raised a voice of surprise at Kyouko-san’s sudden declaration,
In a loud voice that might shatter glass, Kyouko-san’s yell rang through the room… from her small build, just where did that volume come from? At that thunderous clamor like the pulling of a security buzzer, everyone stiffened.
At this point, lab head Emii’s wails were cute in comparison… no more than the warble of a small bird. In contrast, Kyouko-san’s loud voice held an intensity that cut through the air.
As if slathered with wax, no one could take a move… let alone cower, with everyone practically playing dead, Kyouko-san pointed at everyone one by one before confirming it.
“Yep, you’re the culprit.”
She said in a gentle voice with a smile.
Me included, four had been frozen with their eyes locked on what we had been looking at just before she yelled out, the hot water dispenser she held in her hands… but only one, the final person Kyouko-san pointed at, Gifube Nagame-san alone had frozen up with her eye directed at the drawer of her own desk.
Only one person looked in a different direction… why that would make Gifube-san the culprit, pitiful as it may be, I was unable to work it out on the spot. But as if it had finished its purpose, Kyouko-san returned the pot to its original location, immediately moving herself along Gifube-san’s line of sight, and just as she was pulling out the drawer, I came to a late realization.
The other four looked at the pot where Kyouko-san said the SD card was ‘there’… naturally. If what you’re looking for is ‘there’, it will reflexively draw your attention.
But Gifube alone reflexively looked in a different direction. This was because she knew the SD card ‘wasn’t there’ in the hot water dispenser Kyouko-san held. Then that pot held no meaning, Kyouko-san simply had to point to a surprising place no one would think about.
It’s one of the few answers to the devil’s proof.
To prove that something ‘isn’t there’, you simply have to prove it’s ‘there’ somewhere else… and as Gifube-san alone knew it was ‘there’ elsewhere, she didn’t direct her eyes towards the water pot
That wasn’t all.
She couldn’t help but have to confirm its safety.
It went without saying, if she planned to take out the data in the end, it would be no joke the million to one chance it was put into boiling water.
So she couldn’t help it.
She couldn’t help but confirm the place she had concealed it… that only she knew about, the SD card’s hiding place.
“Normally, I forbid myself from tripping a culprit up in such a trap… but you were the one to use a forbidden move first, Gifube-san. I hope you don’t take this the wrong way.”
As she said that, Kyouko-san confirmed the contents of the drawer… Gifube-san didn’t move an inch. Her shoulders dropped in resignation. Her attitude was an elegant confession.
It really was one second.
Rather, one breath.
Okitegame Kyouko had resolved the incident.
I was supposed to contain the culprit if they made a mess, but there didn’t seem to be the need… the three apart from me seemed to gradually understand the situation, but even when released from the shackles of Kyouko-san’s scream, they were all dazed out without any even trying to stand.
“Which means it’ll be around here. The point that caught my eye before I lost my memory.”
As she said that, what Kyouko-san pulled out of Gifube-san’s drawer truly was an SD card… but it wasn’t the one that contained backup data on lab head Emii’s research, it should’ve been one Gifube-san kept for personal use.
Everyone had confirmed it.
Come to think of it, I hadn’t explained that part to Kyouko-san yet, so,
“Kyouko-san, that’s not it. The SD card we’re looking for is…”
I was about to say, but,
“You’re right. It might not be this one. It might be this one. Or this one. Or even this one.”
Kyouko-san produced one SD card after another from the drawer. They were all ones Gifube-san had for personal use, properly kept and filed… they should all contain something different than what was on the backup. Or was there an oversight in our check?
“If you want to hide a tree, do it in the forest, as the old saying goes. There’s no way I can tell which one it is…”
If you want to hide a tree, do it in the forest. Kyouko-san said the same thing as before she lost her memories… in that regards, she was the same person, so perhaps that was just a common train of thought.
But we were supposed to have rejected that theory back then… even if she’s forgotten it… no wait, even back then, Kyouko-san didn’t plainly deny it, did she?
“W-what do you mean by that?”
Lab head Emii finally posed the question. Under the influence of that yell from the before, he had completely lost his fangs… you could say he had withered. Though I never thought he’d try to contest that loud voice with his own…
“As I was saying,”
Kyouko-san played with the few SD cards in her hand as she spoke.
“By deleting the backup data on the card and overwriting it with something else, it can be falsified, can’t it?”
Assistant head Yurine leaked a voice and covered her mouth. It seems the idea had been too simple for anyone to hit upon- I felt the same, but still.
“B-but in that case, it might not come to light, but the data will be gone, won’t it? Would Gifube be alright with that? For simple harassment…”
Not in the interrogative manner he had displayed before, simply as a question, he asked Kyouko-san.
In my talk with (pre-memory loss) Kyouko-san, we had determined it was most likely not a harassment directed at lab head Emii; what’s more, if the data was deleted, or she heard the data was ruined in boiling water, there would be no need for her to intentionally check it. Kyouko-san’s actions were losing their consistency… no, Kyouko-san being inconstant was only natural, I mean her memories didn’t link up.
The problem was the point that the culprit Gifube-san’s actions lacked consistency… if she feared the data would be erased, there was no way she’d have erased it beforehand.
“I simplified it to make it easier to explain, but in reality, the process should have been reversed. To be more precise, after adding different data onto the SD card, you deleted the backup data.”
So Kyouko-san said, but what would that change? Even if the order was reversed, did that change the fact the backup data was reversed?
“… A data restoration software, eh.”
At lab head Emi’s powerless words, Kyouko-san nodded with a smile.
“If you use the dedicated software, deleted digital can be restored, in this day and age, everyone knows that. I mean, even I know it. But it’s a surprising blind spot, isn’t it? Even if an SD card looks empty, the traces of the data still properly remain… unless you overwrite the corresponding memory space afterward, it won’t completely disappear.”
So that’s why rather than erasing the backup data, adding the disguise files came first… if it was just once, then it might be possible to restore after one overwrite, but thinking of how valuable the data was, she was hoping for a complete restoration.
Meaning Gifube-san saw her chance, swiped the SD card from lab head Emii’s desk, and went through the steps on her own computer… she stored some camouflage files and erased the backup data.
After that, without anything out of the ordinary… she’d take the SD card that had lost anything out of the ordinary home and use the designated software to restore the data. Not fearing anyone’s eyes, she could give a wave of both hands and take it anywhere, the revival of the stereopsis research data.
It really was a power move akin to bringing back the dead… if she succeeded, it would be a simple and smart way to do it.
If she succeeded, that is…
“… From when did you think I was suspicious?”
Weakly, Gifube-san asked Kyouko-san… that was also the standard line from the culprit, but unable to say, ‘No, up to that very moment, I never suspected you,’ the famed detective simply answered with a silent smile.
“Humans only see what they want to see… so that’s what you meant?”
To that, Kyouko-san gave an indifferent response of, “I was just making things up as I went along. There was no meaning to it.”
“You’d best learn from this and not put me to sleep again. Unlike the data you’ve erased, once my memory is gone, it will never come back again.”
Once the culprit’s been identified, the motive doesn’t matter… there are some who think so, but that’s not the case for me. Among the detectives I know, there are some stalwart veterans who can say, ‘I just have to solve the mystery. I’m not interested in why he killed,’ but after being suspected so many times without reason, I can’t bring myself to accept the existence of a reasonless crime.
The data Gifube-san carried out, it seems she intended to bring it to a large corporation after all… the 3D technology lab head Emi thought up, when it came to production power and marketability, she thought that elsewhere would be able to actualize the concept much faster.
Of course, it seems it wasn’t for the money.
Gifube-san had a mother who lived with her, and while she wasn’t particularly ill, in the past few years, she had lost almost all the sight in one eye. With one eye gone, a human’s sense of distance suffers greatly… they’re no longer able to measure depth. Compared to everything, it might be a small problem, but would mean she would no longer be able to view three-dimensional images.
While the research carried out at the lab was headed by lab head Emii, Gifube-san was also proud to be a participating member… she wanted her precious mother to see the result of her work while she was still able.
She took the data- at the rate things were going, it was impossible to know how many years it would take for the Sarashina Research Institute to actualize the concept- in the hopes she could provide it to a larger-scale institution… to be more precise, she would leak it somewhere. The specifics were still on the drawing board, it seems.
A motive like that’s just pretty words, she was obviously after the money, there may have been discord with lab head Emii no one knew about… there were various possibilities I could consider, but I decided to believe the reason Gifube-san spoke of.
Whether it be a performance or not, it’s the sole and least thing I can do for the only person who technically stuck up for me.
As the ever-suspected, all I could do was believe… well, as some mischief among friends, this matter wouldn’t be made public, instead being resolved internally, but Gifube-san going without saying, the Emii laboratory that caused such a scandal was subject to disciplinary action. Their budget cut, ironically, Gifube-san’s conduct put the three-dimensional technology she was involved with into an even more distant future.
No, I can’t speak like it’s someone else’s business.
A budget cut made them lose the leisure to keep an odd-job helper without any technical knowledge on the payroll and in the end, I lost yet another place of employment.
As promised, the payment to Kyouko-san was taken up by the Sarashina Research Institute, so if you wanted to, you could call it my lone salvation, but…
“Thank you for your continued patronage.”
Kyouko-san told me… even if she called it continued patronage, she meant it as thoroughly a standard business line. Though I certainly felt I would be under Kyouko-san’s care again.
She left at nine on the dot.
With one job over, she left with a refreshed look on her face… by the way, what Gifube-san used really was the cold medicine, but it wasn’t the cup, she rigged the entire hot water dispenser. Meaning her included, everyone drank the medicine, but as Kyouko-san was unaccustomed to it, she exhibited an immediate effect.
The situation being as it was, the fact no one noticed the change in taste really was a blunder, but it was precisely because she had looked inside the pot that at that time that Gifube-san knew the SD card wasn’t in hot water, causing her to look not at the heater but at the desk. I guess you could interpret it like that. I doubt Kyouko-san thought that far ahead, but I should think it was just deserts after all. Apart from incurring Kyouko-san’s wrath, Gifube-san’s acts to conceal her deeds dug her grave in other ways as well.
It seems Gifube-san really did have a vague idea of who Kyouko-san was, and Honda-san told me of the various episodes about Kyouko-san as a ‘famous person’ he heard from her while I was being questioned, apparently… to Gifube-san, by sharing Kyouko-san’s ‘forgetfullness’ with the others, she attempted to blur out the culprit who could have drugged her. It might be a minor detail, but I’ll add it on for argument’s sake.
“Well then, Kakushidate-san. I pray it doesn’t come to this again. If anything happens, don’t hesitate to call Okitegami Kyouko of the Okitegami Detective Agency.”
“Yes, I’ll do just that.”
But even if I say that, by the next time we meet, I’ll be back to ‘Pleasure to meet you’. When I think about it like that, asking her help is too much a weight on my mind, and I really have my doubts whether I’ll be ‘doing just that’ next time I’m in trouble. No, no, perhaps not getting into trouble is truly the best thing of all…
As if interpreting my lip service as it really was,
“You don’t have to be shy. I don’t think I’ll be forgetting about you for a while, Kakushidate-san.”
She said. On those words that went a little too far for business talk, my heart went and skilled a beat, but with an innocent face she pointed around her belly button,
“I mean, it looks like I wrote you in permanent marker.”
She went on.
Ah, that so…
It felt like a heartbreaking letdown, but even if it was only for a few days, the fact that she could trust me remained on Kyouko-san’s stomach in her own handwriting made it feel like I had secretly slipped around a strict regulation, a corrupt sort of feel that made my heart race in a different sense. That heart race was…
“Yes, I’ll definitely do so. I won’t forget. When the time comes, I’ll definitely contact you. It’s a pleasure doing business with you.”
I also crossed common courtesy to say it… receiving those words, a full smile floated over Kyouko-san’s face, “Yes, please don’t forget,” she pinched the corners of her long skirt to give a high-class curtsey.
“Likewise, don’t hesitate to knock on my door. If possible, do please bring a case hard enough to wake me up from this.”
(Pleasure to Meet you, Kyouko-san– Case Forgotten)
(TL: This is not a short story, it is the first chapter of The Memorandum of Okitegami Kyouko, first book in the Okitegami Kyouko Series by Nishio Ishin. It takes place in the same world as the Monogatari, Zaregoto and most other Ishin series. I consider the first chapter more a character introduction than anything.)
(TL: Okitegami literally means a letter left behind, implied to be a letter from the deceased. Kyouko’s own name is spelled differently, but her detective agency is literally the Letters from the Deceased Detective Agency.)
(TL: If you go by pronunciation, Kakushidate’s last name means someone who’s concealing a bad past. His first name Yakusuke is literally just the Kanji for ‘trouble’ given a different pronunciation.)