Can a human remain safe after bathing in cold water for three hours? It’s been said that even lying in a puddle can lead to drowning, but… Seeing Kyouko-san stretched across the shower floor, my first action was to leap in and cease the spout from the shower head.
When turning the faucet, my back was also momentarily bathed in cold water, and even that instant held the sort of cold to freeze my body over—so Kyouko-san’s entire body was continually bathed in this temperature for a while three hours?
“Kyouko-san! Get a grip on yourself!”
I tried calling out again, but there was no answer after all… rather than white, her sopping wet follicles looked closer to silver. I couldn’t feel any signs of life. Thinking the worst, I gently tried touching Kyouko-san’s neck… thank god, there was a pulse.
Listening carefully, I could also hear a sleeper’s breath. It seems she simply ran out of strength and fell asleep. Perhaps four nights far surpassed Kyouko-san’s limit… she was sound asleep.
I felt some relief… but as there was no way I had any medical knowledge, I had no way of telling whether the pulse I felt from my fingertip was strong or weak, or arrhythmic—all I could tell was that I shouldn’t carelessly move her; while that may sound contradictory, I couldn’t leave her like this, and there was something I could only do here.
I had to wipe off her body and warm her.
It was there that I finally- late as it may be- realized that Kyouko-san was completely stark naked… I hurriedly averted my eyes from the radiance. She was taking a shower, so yeah, it was only natural she was naked, but if Kyouko-san happened to open her eyes in this situation, it would make for a huge ruckus. Even with the present state as hectic as it is, if Kyouko-san woke up now… if a Kyouko-san who had forgotten yesterday, rather, all her memory from the past four days woke up now.
From her perspective, she would suddenly be alone in a bathroom with an unfamiliar man (giant), naked… outrageous. It was a situation that might kill the weak of heart from the shock.
Then rather than forcibly regaining Kyouko-san’s consciousness, letting her sleep would surely make it easier to nurse her… additionally, if she had collapsed at her physical limit after four waking nights, she shouldn’t wake up that easily…
What’s more, if only once, for a moment, she fell asleep, all the reading up to now… there was no changing the fact that her detective work to that point had been ruined. There was already no regaining what was lost.
In that case, I’d like to let her have some sound sleep… honestly, I personally couldn’t stand to look at such a grumpy, snappy Kyouko-san any longer.
Going back to the basics, there was something unreasonable about her plot to read one hundred books at once without a wink of sleep… I had thought that with Kyouko-san’s reading pace, it wouldn’t take that much time, but I was naïve. We could think about what we would do henceforth to a later date, now was the time for rest.
That being the case, I couldn’t leave Kyouko-san naked like that; I momentarily left to the changing from to search for a bath towel and a change of clothing. I found the towel swiftly enough, but I couldn’t find a change… come to think of it, when she went off to the shower, Kyouko-san was empty-handed. Perhaps her drowsiness had it slip her mind… it was an oversight unbefitting of Kyouko-san, or rather, she really must have been at her limit.
But, even if that was the case, the ragged clothes and underwear she had been wearing for over a day should have been somewhere around, but… looking about, I spotted then twisted up in the drum of a laundry machine set at the side of the dressing room.
Ah, so that’s how it is…
Even if Kyouko-san didn’t fall asleep during her shower, that would be quite a dilemma in itself, I thought, as I momentarily wrapped a large bath-towel around her. In the first place, I had to wipe off her body soaked in cold water, and in that instance, not touching Kyouko-san’s body at all would be impossible… so while I was somewhat enveloped in a sense of guilt for assaulting Kyouko-san in her sleep, this was surely not the right situation to fight against the weakness in my heart. My highest priority should be to preserve Kyouko-san’s vital signs.
Yeah, that’s right. What happens to me and the like doesn’t matter… now isn’t the time to put on airs and talk about my qualifications as Kyouko-san’s assistant or anything like that.
Whatever the case, I had to save Kyouko-san.
I considered filling the bathtub with hot water and submerging Kyouko-sans’ body in it, but I heard taking a bath was something that consumed stamina in itself… It would be better to let her rest at ease in her bed.
A single bath towel wasn’t enough to wipe her entire body I took up another, a hand towel to wrap up her hair. While I had no medical knowledge, but in the past- of course, for a very short period before I was fired- I managed to find a job related to nursing, and it looked like that was proving of some use… I thought of myself as a hopeless guy who couldn’t help but be thrown from job to job, but seeing that knowledge prove useful like this, it kinda felt like some reward.
When it came to wiping down Kyouko-san, I tried my best directing my attention so as not to look at her body, but if I wanted to nurse her, it would be impossible for it to never enter my vision at all… my head had cooled down considerably to boot, and enough wisdom was circulating for me to take off my cold, soaked jacked, but it was there that I nodded.
Here and there on her bare-naked body, there were words written in with permanent magic marker… as expected of permanent marker, even with five days since they were written, and a three hour shower, they weren’t washed away.
My contract written on her right arm, the contents of this time’s job on her left… on her stomach was her ‘good idea’, and right above that idea was a line I had seen before, ‘I am Okitegami Kyouko. 25 years old. Head of Okitegami Detective Agency. White hair, wear glasses. Memory resets every day.’ Her self-description.
I already knew Kyouko-san left records over her own body… but the problem was the sentence written on her left, inner thigh. ‘When was the release date for The Cob of the Corn?’
Comparing it to the other passages, it was undoubtedly Kyouko-san’s handwriting, but it was a sentence I completely failed to grasp the intent of… when did Kyouko-san even have the time to write on herself? ‘The Cob of the Corn’ was the name Kyouko-san gave to Sunaga-sensei’s posthumous manuscript… it was a tentative title she thought up on the spot when I asked, so Kyouko-san would have to have written it on her own left leg sometime after that.
I recalled when she told me to pinch her cheeks. By that time, I was already considerably sleepy, so I wasn’t thinking properly, but while it was definitely bad for me to pinch her arm or leg as it might get in the way of her reading, before pinching her face, wouldn’t her leg come to mind first?
But that wasn’t how it went, Kyouko-san put her best foot forward by the letter and told me to pinch her cheeks… was that to open writing space on her legs if the time came?
Meaning this sentence… ‘When was the release date for The Cob of the Corn’ was most likely something Kyouko-san who doesn’t take memos wrote in the midst of the case, a hint towards resolving the incident…? Sensing her own drowsiness was reaching its limit, even if she adhered to her office’s strict duty of confidentiality and didn’t write anything direct, she still left a message behind for her tomorrow’s self…
That would be… much too tragic.
Without any exaggeration, under a situation where drowsiness threatened her own life, being in a condition where she couldn’t maintain a decent personality, even so, without losing her vector towards the case’s resolution, she fulfilled her way as a detective…
Even if she hadn’t fully read through Sunaga-sensei’s one hundred works, there must have been ‘something’ she noticed along the way… come to think of it, before she headed to the shower, she said she had a theory or something (dnyahyaba one, to be more precise). She definitely uttered it in her dream-like state.
But the release date…? What meaning did the release date to an unpublished work hold? I couldn’t see it in the slightest… grounded in her business ethics, she wrote it in a way that no one else could understand, so that went without saying…
The release date… would Kondou-san know it? No, right now, that’s the least of my troubles. Carrying Kyouko-san out of the bathroom takes first priority. The permanent marker message that endured a three-hour shower, I doubted it would disappear from a bit of hard rubbing as I wiped down Kyouko-san’s body front and back.
I couldn’t fully dry off her hair with a towel, but even so, I at least managed to return it from silver to white… there, I embraced her from below and hoisted her up. This freakishly large body I got from my parents stands out, and people always fear it, there was never a good thing about it, but at that moment, I was simply thankful. My body was made big so I could save a precious person at a time like this, I got around to thinking.
Of course, even if that wasn’t the case, Kyouko-san’s body was small and light enough to lift with ease… she was sleeping so feebly in my arms, I couldn’t imagine this was the great detective who had resolved innumerable difficult cases. I had been entrusting my entire body’s weight and then some onto this small build, I realized it for the first time supporting her up myself.
There were plenty of things to think and mull about, but… putting them all on the shelf, I carried Kyouko-san out of the bathroom… umm? I get the feeling I’ve definitely heard out where her bedroom was supposed to be… right, in the back of the reception room…
I held close a sound-asleep Kyouko-san, heading for that room… I only recalled her telling me ‘you definitely can’t go there’ once I had turned the doorknob, opened the door, and stepped into the room.
Nonetheless, even if I remembered it earlier, in an emergency, I don’t think I would honor that warning… and while I didn’t want to say it, the room I stepped into was by all accounts a normal bedroom.
It wasn’t so messy she wouldn’t want anyone to catch sight of it, and there were no bizarre collections she wouldn’t want anyone seeing… it was a cleanly kept private room.
You could also call it a let-down… a king-size bed, and a large flat screen tv embedded in the wall. An audio setup that could play records as well, and the latest model desktop PC. An antique closet, and a frieze carpet… upon closer inspection, her assortment of fixtures and accessories was scrupulous, in no way as dreary as the reception room. In that sense, it wasn’t normal, it was nonchalantly luxurious, keenly conveying the sense the room was designed with good taste, but that only made it all the more confusing why she emphasized I definitely couldn’t come in.
More so, if she showed me such a wonderful room, my favorability impression of Kyouko-san that had hit rock bottom would have shot up considerably… or could it be, regardless of whether it was tidy or not, Kyouko-san was the sort of person who didn’t want others to tread into her room? Even if it’s natural for a woman to not let a man she’s not very close to into her room so easily, why did she go out of her way to stress and convey such an obvious fact to me?
Was she just so sleepy she said something that went without saying… whatever the case, if the room was tidy, there was no problem. I lay Kyouko-san’s small body on the bed. From there, I undid the bath towel anew and wiped off her body… just to make sure.
A glance back and as her head sank into the thick-plumed pillow, I found her expression considerably softer than when I discovered her in the bathroom. Her complexion had somewhat improved, and it looked as if she was simply sleeping in peace- though a peaceful rest might be the sort of expression to express death, in this case, I meant it word for word.
She was soundly asleep.
Patting my chest in relief, I finally felt at ease… I took what felt like the first breath in a long while. I didn’t know what was going to happen back there, but it was appropriate to say the dilemma had crossed its peak.
No, I guess not?
While Kyouko-san’s life was in no serious danger, this was a huge loss in regards to her memories… recognizing that once more, my feelings fell into despair. With this she had completely forgotten the contents of all the Sunaga-sensei books she spent four nights up reading.
Having five days’ worth of work returned to ash, even simply looking at it from the side, it was a truth that made me feel an extraordinary sense of helplessness. This couldn’t be cleaned up with the word reset. And the one in question who had done all the work- Kyouko-san must be… no, Kyouko-san would never be able to feel that emptiness. Because she would even forget the toil of five days reading.
… Thinking of it that way, how frail could this person be.
An instable detective set up over unreliable footing… thought I.
The fastest detective. The forgetful detective.
On top of that, she was actually proficient, exceedingly assertive, and fearsomely sharp… but if she was any other of the countless sorts of detectives, no, even if she wasn’t a detective, given the time, anyone could read one hundred books. Whether they could discern any conclusion that would resolve the case aside… if it was just reading, even I could do it. Even if five days was impossible, I could do it in two months. But Kyouko-san could not.
Kyouko-san only has today.
But still, that’s precisely why Kyouko-san has to be a detective over all else… a job where she can make use of her special characteristic must be hard to come by. Why did she become a detective… what an idiotic question. There’s no way there could be a reason… I mean, if she wasn’t a detective, how would Okitegami Kyouko live on?
Not strong enough, not kind enough.
Kyouko-san could only be a detective.
I was dragged into difficult cases, with all sorts of allegations draped over me, and each time I relied on Kyouko-san… and each time my hands were so full of myself I had failed to see a single thing about Kyouko-san.
While I say I didn’t see, snap. Before I realized it, I was normally looking at the still-naked Kyouko-san as she lay over the bed… it wasn’t the time to gulp, if I was done wiping her down, I needed to dress her up with haste.
There were surely undergarments and pajamas in that closet- and after that, I just had to let her sleep at ease until she naturally awoke. In that timeframe, I’d prepare a proper meal for Kyouko-san’s sake… I had worked part-time as a line cook before, and it was about time for me to show my true mettle. And after that…
After that… Kyouko-san would get back to her job… wouldn’t she. She’d look at the memo on her left hand, remember- no learn- the contents of her job, feel ashamed of herself for carelessly falling asleep, and reread Sunaga-sensei’s complete works from book one… wouldn’t she. She would look at her bright idea, her left hand, and ask me to stand on watch once more. Would it become so awkward and grating for me again? Would she snap harshly at me as she mournfully read her books?
Would she painstakingly read the books of her favorite author?
No, to be more precise, it was difficult to say she was starting from square one. They’re that vanishing message that just barely remained from yesterday’s Kyouko-san. But… even that is nothing more than a theory, and I doubt there would be any change in her means of reading one hundred books in order to verify it.
In the end, Kyouko-san would try reading one hundred books again, running out of strength around book eighty… she’s collapse, forget, and repeat once over. No, even if the memories were lost, it’s not as if her stamina would recover, so next time she’d be able to read ten to twenty books tops.
In that case, it was a completely wasted effort.
In that case, Kyouko-san would be better off withdrawing from this sort of job… but she wouldn’t give up on a job she’s accepted so easily. Even when pushed to the brink, Kyouko-san never tried to give up on reading… she continued being a detective to the verge of collapse. What’s more, if she’s going to forget the very pain she went through, then no matter how the likes of me tries to persuade her… wait?
I lowered my eyes onto Kyouko-san once more. It’s not that I wanted to see her nudity… I focused my eyes on the letters written all over her body.
There it is.
There is just one thing.
Inept as I may be… the one thing I can do for Kyouko-san.
If I was going to do it, I would be thorough with it… of all else, I was dealing with a detective of seldom-found quality. A great detective. What’s more, in a sprinting match, you could say she was top in the world, a great detective of fearsome wit. And peculiar dishonesty or schemes on my part would be seen through faster than anything.
If I wanted to deceive a great detective, I…
Would thoroughly… need to become a culprit.
… Ironically, starting with Kyouko-san, after being saved by so many detectives and having them clear up my false charges, I was finally challenging a great detective upfront.
But do it I would.
I couldn’t think of any other way.
A skillful or well-composed person might be able to think up a wiser means for Kyouko-san’s sake, but I wasn’t that person. I was awkward, prone to cowering in fear… even so, I wanted to do something for Kyouko-san. I couldn’t wait for some skillful composed person to do it for me.
Without making a sound, I stealthily escaped Kyouko-san’s bedroom and made for the kitchen… of course, it wasn’t for some idyllic story of preparing breakfast for when she awoke. I had already abandoned that idea. The kitchen merely held the tools I needed.
Placed beside the sink, the kitchen detergent. Alongside that, the nearby paper towels; I took the whole roll with me.
Perhaps there was a more appropriate means that would be easier to clean up after, but I wasn’t the sort most abundant in information, and as far as I knew, that was the method that would take the least time… namely, in order to erase the permanent marker on her skin.
To cleanly erase them without leaving a trace.
… When writing something, when you carelessly smear ink on your own fingers, it won’t come off so easily with water or normal soap, but these sorts of kitchen detergent should remove ink in a short amount of time… probably.
When returning to the room, I naturally didn’t knock… by that point, I was already pretty much a criminal, and waking Kyouko-san with such common courtesy would be putting the cart before the horse. I wouldn’t call her sleeping beauty, but luckily Kyouko-san had pushed herself quite a bit and showed no signs of waking. I admit I must be simple, as looking at her gentle sleeping face caused my disillusionment from her defiance a few hours ago to fade away… for the sake of this person, I wanted to do as much as I could.
Then now wasn’t time to upset that sleeping face, I promptly got to work… if a careless blunder woke her here and now, in a sense, it would be a greater disaster than if she woke up in the bedroom.
I sat to the side of the bed and started by taking Kyouko-san’s right arm… if I wanted to go at it in the proper order, perhaps I should have started with the left instead of the right, but what I was going to do was a clear act of betrayal as Kyouko-san’s assistant. Then I’d best start off by erasing my handwritten employment contract… I didn’t deserve to be Kyouko-san’s right-hand man anymore.
Pushing some kitchen detergent out onto a paper towel, I used the moistened paper to wipe Kyouko-san’s right arm… the detergent’s scent was harsher than I expected. It was a scent I wasn’t very conscious of in the kitchen, but… while I doubted she would wake from it, to make sure no evidence remained, it seemed I would have to do another water wipe with a hand towel or something at the end.
When I thought of how many more times I would have to touch Kyouko-san’s body, I grew fed up with how far the future seemed, but surely that was what made a perfect crime… I never imagined I would learn the troubles of all the culprits who shifted blame onto me in such a fashion.
Luckily, my book knowledge wasn’t mistaken, and the contract on Kyouko-san’s right arm disappeared all too easily… as if my oath itself had been a cheap transient thing. No, in truth, that’s exactly what it was… I’ve never heard of an adventure where Watson betrays Holmes this easily.
By revoking the right arm contract, the half-baked portions of my resolve finally hardened up… I understood I had already tread into the realm of no return. I recalled the form of Kyouko-san as she laid bare her rage against the culprit who stole her memory to conceal their crime… but in this instance, that level of anger wouldn’t cut it.
Then all the more so, with no oversights… next, I erased the two passages on her torso. I hesitated over whether I should erase the one starting, ‘I am Okitegami Kyouko’, but seeing how the message was clearly written in a different place than when I saw it at the Sarashina Research Institute, I doubted she kept it written from the time she woke up to when she went to bed.
Come to think of it, she had business cards as well, and Kyouko-san was quite a celeb to those in the know, so in the extreme situation where she fell asleep in town without any information, given time, she should be plenty capable of handling it, identifying herself, and returning to her own office.
It was at most a means to know herself the ‘fastest’.
Then in order to emphasize the fact she was not on a job, I should erase it like all the others.
Even so, erasing the letters of ‘I am Okitegami Kyouko’ somehow felt like I was erasing the proof of her existence, inviting in a fearsome sense of guilt. Similarly, erasing the, ‘Have Kakushidate Yakusuke(Giant) wake you’, felt like I was openly betraying her trust, and my heart screamed out all the way.
The man you trusted is betraying you right now, I wanted to shake Kyouko-san awake and tell her- but a coward like me couldn’t take up such sincere action.
Wiping her body with paper towel, unlike drying her off with towels, conveyed the complete sensation of touch to me… through that, I learned that Kyouko-san’s stomach had barely any excess fat. It felt as if I was directly touching her abdominal muscles… but rather than Kyouko-san maintaining model-like proportions, from what I could see from the build of her legs and arms, it seemed more accurate to say she had been pushing herself these past few days.
Erasing letters from her abdomen was similar to tickling her stomach, and I thought Kyouko-san might notice if I didn’t keep up the most prudent of prudence, but luckily, she at most twitched once or twice… instead of rubbing, strongly scrubbing, gently wiping as if to stroke was most effective. It was the same as washing tableware. To think my experience in a kitchen would prove useful here.
The letters on her abdomen completely gone, without any rest, I circled around the bed and went to erasing the passage on her left arm. ‘A job pertaining Sunaga Hirubee-sensei. Important. Start tomorrow, 9:00AM’… that was the blast from the past I needed her to forget most.
Kyouko-san never accepted this job.
She never started it.
She was never crushed, she never ran out of power… so she doesn’t have to do that unreasonable request anymore. She doesn’t have to spend her nights up reading… she can forget.
Tomorrow’s Kyouko-san can.
Wake up as if nothing happened at all.
… I couldn’t do anything about five days’ worth of exhaustion, I could only pray she woke thinking, ‘Whatever case I solved yesterday must have been a difficult one’- compared to erasing the letters on her abdomen, it was easier to control my strength on her arms, and as I had grown accustomed to it, it didn’t take much time to erase.
Even so, the whole process took around an hour. With digital data, it only took a press of the delete button. This must be the strength of analog. I expended more paper napkins than I expected… they would become evidence, so I would take them with me. Would I be better off replacing it with a new one and refilling her detergent?
Oh, that was dangerous.
I had just about forgotten… that Kyouko-san left a message on her left leg as well. I naturally wanted to avert my eyes from her nether regions, so I almost overlooked it. ‘When was the release date for The Cob of the Corn?’ a cryptic line, but that was precisely why those brush strokes might become the key to the case… in that sense, it was the most sinful message to rub out. Erasing it would completely render Kyouko-san’s five nights to nothingness—what was I saying so late in the game? Come so far, leaving only that message would be far more cryptic. That’s why there was no turning back… even if I left just that passage, it would only come back to torment Kyouko-san.
Thorough, be thorough… down to the last detail.
No matter how great of a mystery author Sunaga-sensei might be, no matter how he was involved with Kyouko-san’s offset as a detective, that matter is irrelevant here… whether Sunaga-sensei’s death was suicide or not, that did not matter to the current me.
No matter what punishment awaited me for it.
Rather, at present, I already felt like I was suffering a punishment… after doing all this, I would never be able to look Kyouko-san straight in the eye again. From here on, no matter what false charges I’m placed under, no matter how people suspect me, I’ll never be able to seek help from Kyouko-san. A traitor like me has eternally lost the qualifications to seek help from her.
It’s fine, if it’s detectives, I’ve got more than I can count… but there’s only one Kyouko-san.
I rubbed off the message on her left leg.
With that, there were no traces of ink over Kyouko-san’s body. On my side, it felt like various feelings had been slathered over in a thick magic marker.
But that wasn’t the end… this was where the perfect crime began. The crime was pretty much complete, and now the work began to conceal it.
In that sense, regardless of whatever else I had to do, I needed to dress Kyouko-san… just how long was I going to let her be naked?
I opened the closet and searched for some clothes. Finding the underwear and pajamas took no time at all. As I thought, Kyouko-san was the bearer of a considerable wardrobe, and she had an adequate selection of both. I faltered for a moment. At first, I thought I’d choose something that would rouse the least suspicion, a natural coordination, but it was almost as if I was making a dress-up doll of Kyouko-san, unnecessarily increasing the criminality of my deeds. I turned back on myself and purposely chose them at random. It was fundamentally impossible for me to imitate Kyouko-san’s fashion sense, and it’s not like she would be wearing them out. But the pajama set aside, I heard that it was actually more natural to have mismatched undergarments, so I decided to leave it that. Come to think of it, among women, there are apparently those who sleep with a brassiere and those who do not, but there were numerous sleep-purposed bras in her drawer, making me conclude Kyouko-san to be the former.
While I thought wearing a blindfold when changing her might be the gentlemanly thing to do, in my case, after perpetrating so much, if I had to say, it just felt hypocritical; rather, in my nursing job, I never had to help a woman change, so there was no way I could fasten a brassiere while blindfolded.
But once I had finished affixing her undergarments, putting on her pajamas was comparatively simple. Because the side the buttons are on is opposite for men and women, I think it resultantly made it easier for me to fasten them.
By the time I finished dressing her, Kyouko-san’s hair had fully dried out, but I was the one sweating all over my body. I wanted to fall asleep already… unlike Kyouko-san, even if I was paddling an easier ship, I had gone four nights up as well, and that fatigue wasn’t something that could be shaken off with three hours of rest.
Even then, I was practically moving on willpower. Regardless, I couldn’t collapse there. You can hold yourself up in your house for the next five years, until you’re out of your twenties, so do your best for now, Kakushidate Yakusuke.
I definitely wasn’t going lax, but be that as it may, by putting her clothes on, it was certain I had cleared a single flag point. If hypothetically Kyouko-san woke up here, even if the plan was ruined, the fear of the worst possible misunderstanding was gone.
I had no intentions of getting into a slapstick comedy with Kyouko-san throwing allegations at me, and me calling in another detective… I carried the towel and papers I used to wipe Kyouko-san’s body out of her bedroom. I would place the towel in the laundry basket in the laundry room, and carry the paper towels off with me… with that, my work in the bedroom was done.
Next was the kitchen, and then the reception room.
Erasing the traces of my cooking… I couldn’t restock the fridge’s depleted ingredients, but I had to cleanly wash and put away the five-days’ worth of tableware for two. I ended up using the kitchen detergent for its intended purpose… what about the food on the reception room table? My failure still on the plate? … I couldn’t throw it in the garbage, I had no choice but to eat two-people’s worth on my own. It was a full course of terror. I reaped what I sowed.
Apart from that, the fact a third party… no, the traces a detective assistant had been here needed to be perfectly erased.
While this building was a bundle of security, no matter how hard it was to enter, it wasn’t so hard to leave… on the other hand, even if I forgot something, I wouldn’t be able to come back to retrieve it, so I would need to exercise the utmost caution.
I left a great many fingerprints around, but I doubted I would have to care about those (apart from on the table and glass) … rather, I shouldn’t care about them. I was mainly in the reception room. Then it would be more unnatural for there to be no fingerprints from anyone apart from Kyouko-san.
But what I definitely couldn’t leave behind was the heap of Sunaga Hirubee’s ninety-nine works… if I left those behind, the rest of my work would all be for nothing. It’s Kyouko-san we’re talking about. She would end up linking the news of Sunaga-sensei’s death with the books left behind, and with one thing leading to another, she would arrive at the job she had been tasked with… that deductive prowess, her instinct as a detective was definitely something I couldn’t make light of.
Around two boxes worth… well, it’s not an amount I wouldn’t be able to lift in one go… I guess my experience in a moving company proved useful there? Goodness me, I guess there’s a time and place for everything.
Oh right, Sunaga-sensei’s posthumous manuscript… I have to make sure not to forget that. Good grief, while it was something of value, when I thought of how that manuscript started my fall into that situation, I even felt annoyed at it. Of course, to be honest… to speak my honest, indiscrete thoughts, it was hard to just call it an annoyance. Apart from a sense of fulfillment that I could do something for Kyouko-san, it would be a lie to say I felt absolutely no upliftment that someone like me was battling against the great detective Okitegami Kyouko. As if it was finally time for a side character like me to play out their uncalled-for climax… no, I’m sure that was just the high I was feeling upon being pushed to the limit. Let’s calm down for a moment.
And by calming down, the wood grain of the reception room floor entered my eyes… it wasn’t good to be too neurotic, but would I be better off retrieving the hairs on the floor? I had, per say, been living there for five days… normally, I wouldn’t care too much about the likes of hair, but Kyouko-san was completely white-haired. If there were too many black strands around, would it be unnatural after all? But then what should I do? It would take time to pick up every last one, but that being the case, that didn’t mean I could use a vacuum… the roar from that thing would wake Kyouko-san.
But with a method that entered my ear when I worked a desk at a cleaning company let me evade that trial… by wrapping packing tape around my hands and creeping around the floor, I successfully retrieved them. The fingerprints were the same, and while I thought it would be unnatural for there to be no traces of anyone in a receptions room, on the contrary, precisely because it was a receptions room she would want to keep it tidy, I thought, so I thoroughly cleaned it from corner to corner.
Obviously, that method picked up Kyouko-san’s white hair alongside my own… and naturally, I would need to take the packing tape back with me, that act felt just a little stalker-ish, sending me into a spiral of self-loathing. Swearing I would discard it in a public dumpster along with the paper napkins on the way back, I finally finished up with the kitchen and reception room.
Finally, I brought the towel to the dressing room… it was there I went pale. I saw the wet jacket there and went pale. I had completely forgotten how I was bathed in cold water retrieving Kyouko-san and had stripped it off. That was dangerous, how could I call it a perfect crime if I left such clear traces… I can feel Professor M’s disappointment.
I had just left it on the floor, so the jacket was only half-dry, but, well, I had no problems wearing it… and when I thought of how the charges on me weren’t all wet this time around, I could put up with it.
Just in case, I checked in the back as well, but there didn’t seem to anything that needed cleaning up… the unpleasant feeling of the wet jacket made me feel like taking a shower before I left, but no matter how I searched, I couldn’t find any meaning in going out of my way to do something so stupid that might leave my trace.
At that point, there really was nothing left to do. As a culprit, I needed to escape the Okitegami Building without a moment to lose, but before that, I wanted to say farewell to Kyouko-san one more time. While my emotions did come into play, if I didn’t confirm Kyouko-san had yet to awake, I wouldn’t be able to put my mind at ease.
After quietly peeking into her bedroom, returning was the right decision, or so I paid thanks to my unexpected luck… even if I said that, rather than my luck, I should call it a stroke of good luck for Kyouko-san.
Kyouko-san had turned over in her sleep, embracing her large pillow, out like a light… her sleeping posture wasn’t the best, it seems. Well, that went to show how deeply asleep she was, so it wasn’t something for me to complain about (In the first place, I don’t have any qualifications to say anything about Kyouko-san’s sleeping posture), but what I found to my luck was the room’s temperature.
With the season, the room’s temperature had yet to go as far as cold. But Kyouko-san had been continually submerged in cold water up to a moment ago. Her body temperature had surely fallen considerably… her sleeping posture that paid no heed to her blanket would usually be a pleasant scene, but on top of her body temperature, I couldn’t overlook it.
In a building so fully outfitted, there was no way her room had no AC… I looked around the entrance door. As I thought, on the wall right next to the light switch, the remote for the AC was embedded.
I doubt she leaves the AC on when she sleeps normally… but if she sets it to cut off in an hour by timer, then even if she wakes up sometime along the way, she shouldn’t find it strange. Luckily, that AC unit was the sort that didn’t make a sound when it started up, so I didn’t have to worry about Kyouko-san waking up from it… I used my knowledge from working an appliance store as I set the temperature to twenty-six and changed the AC to heat.
Ah, come to think of it, I never checked the location of the AC unit itself. If it blew directly onto Kyouko-san, it might conversely make it difficult for her to sleep, so do I have to alter the vent direc… tion? I didn’t see it anywhere. Ah, that’s wrong, this model was the sort that’s buried in the ceiling, was it… there, I shifted my eyes straight up.
And… I found myself at a loss for words.
That’s right, ever since I entered the room, I had never once looked up at the ceiling… Sure enough, a cutting-edge air conditioning unit was embedded there. None of its air holes were positioned to bother Kyouko-san as she slept on the bed… and in hindsight, there’s no way a bed would be positioned right in the way of an air conditioning’s wind.
That’s why… I should never have looked at the ceiling. The reason being, the air conditioning wasn’t the only thing on it.
The true meaning of her words when Kyouko-san told me I could definitely never enter this room. It was spelled out in thick, black, paint across the ceiling.
‘From today onwards, you are Okitegami Kyouko.
You will live as a detective.’
Those rough brush strokes… no matter how I looked at them, they were not done by Kyouko-san’s hand.
Once I had finished disposing of everything at the scene, the last bus had already left. I didn’t have enough on hand to take a taxi (There was no way I could receive my salary as an assistant), so I had no choice but to return carrying two cardboard boxes full of books… honestly, that might have been the harshest part of the job.
At the end of a few hours’ march, I returned to my apartment and finally slept like a log… but that wasn’t the end either. Even if the crime scene was taken care off, there was someone whose story I had to get straight if I wanted to pull off a perfect crime.
It went without saying I meant the direct client in this case, Kondou-san… it was already past noon by the time I awoke the next day, but I instantly made a call to Kondou-san’s phone and made an appointment. He had consecutive meetings that day, so if I was fine with a gap in-between them, he’d make some time… was the matter, and I assented that I was fine with that and prepared to head out.
By that time, I was sure Kyouko-san had opened her eyes… how was she? What thought ran through an awakened Kyouko-san’s head? Would my childish destruction of evidence truly work on a great detective?
… That was already gone and done with, there was no use mulling over it. It was impossible for me to repent on my failings and redo. So for now, I could only do what I was capable of… the boxes of Sunaga-sensei’s books in tow, I changed onto the bus to Sakusousha.
On that day, for the first time.
I pressed the stop button on my own.
“… Now this is a surprise.”
Kondou-san told me after hearing out my story at Sakusousha’s staff canteen. I spoke apologetically.
“Yeah, I have to apologize to you, it was my arbitrary decision. But…”
I started to vindicate myself, but, “No, that’s not it. What I’m surprised about is how skillfully you were able to carry out a crime,” Kondou-san lightly laughed.
“I always found it a mystery why everyone unanimously directs the eyes of suspicion at a good-natured man like you, but good gracious, the mistaken one might have been me. Don’t you think you might have a criminal nature rivaling that of a great detective?”
“D-don’t even joke about something like that, Kondou-san. Even recalling it now, I was trembling with fear last night… I haven’t the slightest idea why I was able to take such bold action.”
That wasn’t to say I had told Kondou-san every little detail about my offense. If I told him everything, Kondou-san would become an accomplice… of course, there was that practical reason to it as well, but I had an extraordinary resistance to telling him how I retrieved a naked Kyouko-san from the bathroom. For the sake of Kyouko-san’s honor, that’s something I should keep under especially tight wraps.
To the end, I only roughly explained that I nursed Kyouko-san who had collapsed after four nights without sleep, and erased all traces of the job from the scene… and naturally, I didn’t say a word about that message on her bedroom ceiling.
“Anyway… Kondou-san. I want you to make it so this request never happened. For Kyouko-san who only ever has today, it was an impossible request from the start. If you need it done at all costs, I’ll take responsibility and introduce you to a different detective.”
“No, there’s no need, Yakusuke. I withdraw the request… now that it’s come to this, that might actually be for the best.”
“? What do you mean it’s for the best?”
“To tell you the truth… while you were working with Okitegami-san, there was a movement on our side. It’s the will of Sunaga-sensei’s bereaved family, so to speak… they’re pressing us to see if we can make Sunaga Hirubee’s death out as a suicide.”
I couldn’t understand what he meant… no, perhaps I just didn’t want to understand, but as I was slow on the uptake, Kondou-san offered further explanation.
“Meaning, not just publish Sunaga-sensei’s final manuscript as his final work, they want to send it into the world in that form… if it’s the ‘Posthumous work of an author who committed suicide’, it will advertise itself, and it will certainly have an effect as a sales pitch.”
“… His bereaved family didn’t have the best relationship with him. That Sunaga-sensei.”
Giving a blunt response was the most I could do.
“I wonder. I told you before, but to an author, suicide isn’t necessarily a dishonorable end… if you want me to speak removing my emotions and public stance, if we announce it under that representation, I guarantee Sunaga-sensei’s name will rise.”
I grasped for words… I recalled what Kyouko-san told me. His new work, his posthumous manuscript ‘The Cob of the Corn’ was just the usual Sunaga Hirubee… the usual sort of piece you could enjoy while piquing your interest about what he would put out next, so making that the end-all of his writing career was definitely not doing good to Sunaga-sensei.
But I couldn’t put that opinion on the chopping block here… Kyouko-san had already stepped down from this job. No, I dragged her down from it… as a detective and as Sunaga-sensei’s fan, Kyouko-san’s opinion no longer held any weight over the present situation.
I couldn’t tell what extent of my thoughts he could read, but Kondou-san went on.
“That’s why, if Okitegami-san or another detective poorly—or skillfully investigates and reaches the conclusion ‘it was not a suicide’, then that verdict and the bereaved family will have us between a rock and a hard place, only bringing us more trouble… if Okitegami-stepped down at this stage, you could say that way would be to our benefit.”
He said… there was no way Kyouko-san would step down herself but, well, from Kondou-san’s perspective, it was much the same. Her assistant had raised a rebellion, after all… if evaluated as an organization, that was the responsibility of the chief of the office, Kyouko-san.
“… For the sake of Kyouko-san’s name, I’ll say it as persistently as I have to, Kondou-san. This job was unsuited to Kyouko-san from the start. I wouldn’t want you forgetting this was a request neglecting various regulations of the Okitegami Detective Agency. It was a job taking advantage of Kyouko-san’s fan mindset–”
“I get it, I get it, don’t be so angry. I’ll make sure this doesn’t lower Okitegami-san’s evaluation… if you’ll let me make an excuse, even I never thought Okitegami-san would carry out such a heated investigation of reading all one hundred books.”
As if to soothe me, Kondou-san vindicated himself… but he did have a point. As she devoted herself to the point of collapse, it was Kyouko-san’s failure of self-management that invited in the present state of affairs.
Not doing what you’re unable to is the minimum required credence of a working adult… and this time, Kyouko lacked that. Turning it around, that was simply how great of a Sunaga-sensei fan she was, but…
“… Kondou-san. Could you go into some more detail on what you told me before? Kyouko-san set out to become a detective because she read Sunaga-sensei’s works—that’s what you said. What exactly did you mean by that.”
“Ah… that was a slip of the tongue on my part, but now that it’s come to this, I guess I can’t uphold my silence… during Satoi-sensei’s case, do you remember how I asked you if Kyouko-san had ever worked overseas before?”
“Yeah, I do. You told me to forget it, but it left quite an impression.”
Kondou-san had once met a person who resembled Kyouko-san while working at a branch overseas, it was that sort of talk.
“I’ll be frank, that woman was a die-hard fan of Sunaga-sensei… in the first place, the reason we got into contact was because I was an acquaintance of Sunaga-sensei. It involves the internal affairs of Sakusousha, so I can’t tell you everything now that you’ve taken leave, but… back then, she helped me out quite a bit. You could say that the current me is only here thanks to her.”
For a man of Kondou-san’s caliber to say so much… if the current Kondou-san is here thanks to that person, then indirectly, the current me is also here thanks to her, but was that individual and Kyouko-san really one and the same?
“No, I don’t know. I don’t think it adds up if I calculate out her age either, I’ve just said some unreasonable things. I might just be chasing some memories from the past… rude as it may be, perhaps I just saw Okitegami-san overlapping with that person. A part of me requested this job to Okitegami-san in the hopes of confirming that, truth be told.”
“I-is that so?”
I thought he was strangely fixated on Kyouko-san… so that was his angle. Perhaps having me invite Kyouko-san out for a date, and choosing Sunaga-sensei’s villa as the destination also had that hidden ulterior motive… or perhaps to Kondou-san, that was the main goal, and the rest was secondary.
“T-then in the end, have you found your proof?”
“No, honestly, I’m even more confused than when I started out… that person was definitely a zealous fan of Sunaga-sensei, so when Okitegami-san went as far as breaking her fundamental rule to take on the job, I thought that might be it. I was practically certain that woman looked on her love of Sunaga-sensei’s work and decided to become a detective… but she wasn’t the sort of rash person who would work herself to collapse, even by mistake…”
And in the first place, that person didn’t have a special characteristic of having her memories reset every day… or so Kondou-san wrapped up his explanation. Whittling it down that much, they definitely seemed like different people… but it was possible her memories got around to resetting after Kondou-san returned. In that case, it was even possible she lost her memories of meeting Kondou-san along with the rest.
But even if that was true, the one thing I was certain of was the fact Kyouko-san didn’t become a detective out of her love of Sunaga-sensei… the reason Kyouko-san was a detective.
It was written on the ceiling of her room.
‘From today onwards, you are Okitegami Kyouko.
You will live as a detective.’
… Waking up every morning, losing the memories of yesterday, she was simply following the first thing that entered her eyes, those orders written by who knows who… but ironically, if she wasn’t a detective, the current her wouldn’t be able to live on.
“Whatever the case, it looks like I should stop trying to test Okitegami-san… it’s way too dangerous. I’m sorry, Yakusuke. Until the day hell freezes over, I won’t try digging into that person’s past again.”
“Y-yeah… just leave it at that.”
“If you weren’t there, I might have done something I could never take back. From here on, like in this case, you’ve got to continue supporting Okitegami-san. I’m sure she needs an assistant, right?”
No, I was the one who did something there was no taking back. I had no intentions of meeting Kyouko-san again… we were never that close to begin with, and if Kondou-san didn’t instigate me, I wouldn’t have invited her on a date either. Now that I had betrayed Kyouko-san, I could never make another job request to her, let alone help her in her work… the moment I was about to say that, I recalled the form of Kyouko-san collapsed in the bedroom.
If she continued to be showered in that cold water, she would have suffered from hypothermia, and might have actually died… what’s more, Kyouko-san would forget that mistake. She was unable to ‘learn by experience’.
Someone had to save her.
… Then would I twiddle my fingers as I continued waiting for that someone to save Kyouk-san… when that prince on a white horse never arrived, did I intend to say it was a pity and call it a day? ‘Someone had to do it’ was the same as declaring ‘I won’t do it myself’… would I make such a declaration to Kyouko-san?
But I couldn’t figure it out. Was what I did this time around really for Kyouko-san’s sake… was my betrayal really for her sake?
“… That’s right. Kondou-san. There’s one thing I wanted to ask you… if ‘The Cob of the Corn’ was submitted normally, around when was its planned release?”
“? ‘The Cob of the Corn’?”
“Ah, sorry. I’m talking about Sunaga-sensei’s posthumous manuscript.”
“Hmm… did Okitegami-san name it? It’s definitely a fitting title. By the schedule, it was before the spring of next year… it would be released around February. Of course, now that Sunaga-sensei’s passed, I think it will be pushed ahead some… his family’s will and all.”
The will of his bereaved family again… no, an irrelevant outsider like me shouldn’t stick in his mouth. I’m sure they’re going through a lot with dividing his belongings and inheritance taxes. But even if I believed Kondou-san when he said suicide wasn’t necessarily a dishonor to an author, wrongly announcing what wasn’t a suicide as one really would be mendacious after all… not as an author but a human being.
“I didn’t want to say it, but it’s true that the timing was simply perfect for a suicide. Putting a close on his numerous series, his ‘The Cob of the Corn’ wasn’t a new series, it was a standalone. Meaning, he left without leaving any novels incomplete… I can’t help but sense some intent.”
What happens twice will happen thrice… but third time’s the charm, eh?
“That’s why, Yakusuke, I think this matter is going to be brought to a close with that… for Sakusousha, of course it’s better if the book sells. I’m in a different department and I wasn’t directly in charge of him, I’m not in a position where I can open my mouth. In the first place, it was a vague situation that could go either way. As long as no definite evidence comes out to prove Sunaga-sensei’s death was not a suicide–”
“Sunaga-sensei’s death was not a suicide.”
There… at the table Kondou-san and I sat across one another, brazenly without any objection, someone had taken a seat. She had pulled back the chair without a sound, elegantly lowering herself into it.
A woman of small build. She wore glasses… a woman of white hair.
She wore a stately pair of pants, her shirt was done up to the very top button.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, I’m Okitegami Kyouko.”
The head of the Okitegami Detective Agency, Okitegami Kyouko.
As she unreservedly named herself, she… the detective held a paper cup filled to the brim with black coffee in her hands, giving a vibrant declaration.
“Now let’s get to proving it”
At Kyouko-san’s sudden appearance, Kondou-san look at me in surprise… as if to say this isn’t what we talked about, but the one more surprised at her entrance than anyone was me. I even thought it was one of Kondou-san’s set-ups yet again… but from what I could see of his reaction, that wasn’t the case.
Calm and collected all on her own, “My apologies, I stopped by the editorial department so I was late to arrive,” Kyouko-san said… and she placed the envelope she held under her arm on the table.
“I received this from Konoka-san, and by the time I finished reading it, the clock had already struck… I’ve kept you waiting.”
Kondou-san examined the contents of the envelope, but there was no such need… it went without saying it contained a printout of Sunaga Hirubee’s posthumous manuscript, ‘The Cob of the Corn’. The one I collected might have been a different copy but from its thickness and the situation…
“It was a wonderful manuscript. For now, let’s refer to it as ‘Home Sweet Corn’.”
Kyouko-san spoke clearly… her provisional title and impression were different. For the impression, it may be because she was putting on airs before Kondou-san, a person of the publishing company, but… was the reason her tentative title changed was because this was ‘Today’s Kyouko-san’?
If memory serves, Konaka-san was affiliated with the literature department, directly in charge of Sunaga-sensei… I see because he was Kondou-san’s colleague, she was able to hear the details. And by editorial department, she meant that one… I didn’t make it in time to silence them… crap, if I had the time to listen to Kyouko-san’s supposed past from Kondou-san, I should’ve had Kondou-san start the cleanup work within the company.
No, in the first place, why was Kyouko-san in the company building… if she brought up her name to Konaka-san who knew the circumstances, she would be able to receive a copy, but before that, she’d have to pass through the reception to enter or…
“That’s because I’m a detective. Covert operations are right in my ballpark… If you look like you’re supposed to be there, they let you right in. I actually meant to pay Kondou-san a visit, but he was absent for a meeting, so I went to Sunaga-sensei’s direct editor Konaka-san. After that, he told me I could find Kondou-san in the staff canteen after he’s finished a meeting.”
Kyouko-san explained… but while that sounded like an explanation, it really explained nothing. Well, for Kyouko-san, I guess breaching a publisher’s firm security wasn’t too difficult… rather, was that why she was wearing a pantsuit? With a young woman, it was hard to keep wary, and if she passed through unconcerned, they might just let her through, but what we were worried about was why Kyouko-san was here in the first place.
Turning to me in the height of my confusion, Kyouko-san gave a pleasant smile, “So which one of you is Kondou-san?” she asked. Kondou-san hurriedly raised his hand like a student whose name was called by the teacher. That humorous conduct unbefitting a dandy man contrarily cleared my head.
Her memories were gone… she didn’t remember Kondou-san’s face or mine. But Kyouko-san knew she had taken up a Sakusousha request that involved Sunaga-sensei’s death… she heard it from Konaka-san… that wasn’t it. I mean, if she didn’t know that, she wouldn’t have come around to Sakusousha in the first place. Then in the end, was there an oversight in my treatment of the crime scene?
When she opened her eyes, Kyouko-san sensed something off with her office and made for Sakusousha… no, in that case, that much was fine. I couldn’t determine what part of my coverup I had made a mistake in, but now that the situation had come to this, I could only accept it.
However… what I couldn’t understand was the air Kyouko-san put on, her bearing as if she had already pinned down the truth of Sunaga-sensei’s death. Whatever the case, Kyouko-san ran out of power. That much alone was certain, and by the time she awoke, her memories… five days worth of memory were supposed to have reset. And yet, how did she ascertain the truth?
In a generous estimate of half a day since she opened her eyes, all of Sunaga-sensei’s works… you mean to tell me she read one hundred books? That’s impossible. If she could do that, she’d have done it from the start. If she read anything it would have to be ten volumes or less… and there’s no way she could understand something from that. In the first place, I had carried all of Sunaga-sensei’s works off from the Okitegami building… there were supposed to be a number of volumes considerably difficult to obtain among them.
… Was she bluffing?
Even if it didn’t go so far as a bluff, just as with the culprit at the Sarashina Research Institute, was Kyouko-san putting on a façade before me and Kondou-san when she was in a state of zero…?
“… You say that Sunaga-sensei’s death wasn’t a suicide. Of course, you must be saying that with some evidence to back you up, right Okitegami-san?”
“Yes, I never say anything without evidence… I’m a detective, after all.”
At Kondou-san’s question, Kyouko-san gave a vibrant, brazen answer… I couldn’t sense any signs of fatigue, this was the usual Kyouko-san under normal operation.
“But before that, there’s one thing I’d like to confirm… Are you Kakushidate Yakusuke?”
“Eh? Ah, y-yes…”
I stuttered as I answered… with my guilt from betraying her, I couldn’t look her in the eye. I must have looked considerably suspicious… if she identified me as the culprit who killed Sunaga-sensei, I might even end up accepting it.
“Is that so. No, I heard from Konaka-san… it seems you were helping me out in my work. Thank you.”
Konaka-san’s lips are way too loose. No, blaming him won’t get me anywhere… she used her skills as a detective to obtain information, and his lips weren’t even sealed on the matter.
“Ah… n-no, I was never useful enough for you to call it helping out…”
“So I’m sure. More than that, you tried to get in my way.”
Kyouko continued on, her smile unchanging.
… As I thought, she saw through me.
But Kyouko-san repeated her, “Thank you.”
“Because you got in my way… the truth became easier to understand.”
“… Eh? What do you mean…”
“Before we get into that,”
Kondou-san butted in.
“How were you able to tell, Okitegami-san… that we requested an investigation into Sunaga-sensei’s death from you?”
“Mn, um, is that important?”
“It’s important… because our company brought forth the request while appraising you as the forgetful detective. If you are able to maintain your memories without resetting across days, then we would have hired you under false pretenses.”
That was the Kondou-san-style rhetoric. He considered my dismay of having my crime seen through and asked in my place.
“Is that so? Come to think of it, you have a point there… well, whatever the case, if I ever hope to explain the truth, it’s something I’ll have to say. Kakushidate-san.”
Kyouko-san placed a single sheet of paper on the table.
“I’m quite thankful that you cleaned my room for me, but you really shouldn’t leave something this important behind… it’s important evidence.”
A folded piece of paper… as I thought, it was the list of Sunaga Hirubee’s works Kondou-san drafted up. It even courteously spelled out the words ‘Sakusousha Kondou Fumifusa’. That made the reason Kyouko-san dropped by Sakusousha clear… however.
“T-that can’t be… where did you find that?”
“In the dressing room. When I woke up and went to take a shower, I happened to spot it… though I couldn’t tell you why it was lying in a place like that. Do you have any ideas?”
On the contrary, being asked like that, I thought… the dressing room? Sure enough, it was the place that got me into the greatest fluster, but… was it when I took off my drenched jacket? In the end, I reclaimed the jacket itself, but did it fall out of my pocket at the time… I would never make such an oversight, I’d like to think, but as truth would have it, the paper was in Kyouko-san’s hands.
“I rescind my previous statement, Yakusuke. You’re incapable of doing wrong.”
Kondou-san said with a bitter smile… I had no words, I could only feel ashamed.
“Okitegami-san. Please understand… Yakusuke only did something like that because he worried for your wellbeing. He was by no means attempting to get in your way.”
Kondou-san stuck up for me… he really has it together. Though I don’t know if he’d still cover for me like that if he knew I recovered a naked Kyouko-san.
“Yes, I’m aware… it seems I pushed myself considerably, and for that matter, you have nothing more than my gratitude.”
Or so Kyouko-san said as well… from what I could see of her behavior, her words of gratitude were no fabrication. Judging by her previous statement, she wasn’t under the impression she had collapsed in the shower room… in that case, in order to not bring her any unnecessary shame, at the very least, I’d conceal that matter to the end.
“But what did you mean when you said that made it easier to understand? Even when I made off with all of Sunaga Sensei’s works.”
So I brought the talk towards the case itself. As the greatest outsider, that impatience may have seemed unnatural, but, “There was no need to read the complete works of Sunaga-sensei to begin with,” Kyouko-san said.
“To be blunt, just looking at that list was just about enough to resolve the case… it’s Occam’s Razor. I surmise that because she was Sunaga-sensei’s fan, ‘Yesterday’s Me’s desire to read all of his works was so strong she used work as an excuse.”
“B-but… say what? Just with this list? And how do you figure?”
I had looked through it a number of times, to the end it was nothing more than a list of Sunaga Hirubee’s works… as it was written up by Kondou-san, it had some extra details, but a list was a list. I couldn’t think that alone was enough to understand the truth behind Sunaga-sensei’s death.
“It’s actually possible, see. When I saw this list in the dressing room, it took me a second to notice.”
“A second, is it?”
The fastest detective.
“Please look at this. The important part is… here.”
What Kyouko-san pointed at was the right column of the list… the publication dates specifically. The grid that detailed what day of what month of what year of his career the book had been released. Just gazing at that column let one see the path the author Sunaga Hirube tread over forty-five years, but… what about it?
“Do you see it?”
“I don’t.” “I don’t.”
My voice overlapped with Kondou-san’s. Like a home tutor patiently guiding her student, “For example,” Kyouko-san brought up an example. While I was a different story, taking that attitude with Kondou-san surpassed the realms of shamelessness.
“If the release dates of a certain author all slanted towards a single month… if they were all concentrated on one month a year, wouldn’t you think that author had a strong will to do so?”
The example was so extreme I couldn’t grasp it in an instant… well, of course she was right. We would certainly feel the author in question’s strong fixation on that month without much room for objection. On the contrary, if there was an author who would definitely not publish a book in April, then one might think they were a superstitious person.
“But the publication dates of Sunaga-sensei’s works don’t have that inclination… they’re at random, or rather, with all the works he’s published, they’re scattered throughout all twelve months, or rather…”
“Of course, if you look at this list as a whole, it might seem that way… but what if you divide it? Try splitting it into series and thinking about it like that.”
The twenty-two series Sunaga-sensei carried… meaning each series had a partial release month? Like one series being released on even months, and the other released on odds… I split up work with Kondou-san to confirm it.
During that timeframe, Kyouko-san elegantly sipped her coffee… but the result was none too favorable. Even after we tried totaling them up by series, I couldn’t see any inclination I could call statistically significant. Only the ‘Great Detective Meiko’ series were all released on even months, but perhaps I should look at that as an inevitability of novels written for young boys and girls, there wasn’t much space between releases, putting them down for every other month… you could call it intentional if you wanted to, but rather than the author, that felt like the publisher’s intentions.
“Okitegami-san, I have another meeting to attend to, and it’s not like I have too much time.”
Kondou-san offered a light complaint to the busy work he was put to, but with an innocent look, “My apologies. I just love to see boys hard at work,” Kyouko-san lightly jested.
“Then boorish as it may be, I’ll just come out and say the answer… what’s important is to separate out the series, and look at the works that are left.”
“That are… left?”
“I mean the six standalone books.”
On her words, I looked back at the list… I had definitely overlooked them. I had analyzed each series by release date, but the books that weren’t part of a series could be considered a subdivision In itself. Grouping what wasn’t grouped was yet another group.
The individual novels, six of them.
Starting with his debut, ‘Murder at the River’s Depths’, then ‘The Victim of Mine Eye’ published in his eighth year, and then…
Each of the eight books… they were all released in February.
This is… how should I look at it?
Even if one second was an exaggeration, it was definitely a commonality one could find from looking at the list… disregarding one hundred books and forty-five years of writing, and literary style, and genre, it was a commonality one could find just by itemizing it down to pure dreary publication information.
And that was precisely why it might be possible to cut it down as pure coincidence… six of his works just happened to be released in the same month. But while two or three works overlapping was one thing… six of them? By simply calculations, that’s one-twelfth times six… no, I don’t feel like calculating probability. I can only think he intentionally regulated it.
… Come to think of it, in that one treasure hunt.
As the game of an influential author, in most cases, he would continue giving hints until his editor found it, but in the end, I heard there were some times his works weren’t found at all. Even if that was the rare exception, from the production side, I do think that’s a crisis that can’t be written off as a joke; but could it be that those games were how Sunaga-sensei was regulating the publication dates…?
Why did no one notice such a blatant truth… one might think if it was pointed out, but like hell anyone could notice such a dynamic set up. Over forty-five years, slipped into ninety-nine works… the scale was on a different level, and the era was different. In this day and age, it was easy to take statistics from a digital database, but the great author’s years of activity continued ceaselessly through a long period before everything was indexed.
And so… and so?
No, wait. That was an intense leap of logic. This is just connecting up whatever comes to mind… I looked at Kyouko-san. It may have become a look strong enough to call a glare, but Kyouko-san took it lightly and turned it aside.
“My prediction is that this new work… the standalone ‘Home Sweet Corn’ was set to be released around the start of next year, in February.”
That’s right, ‘Yesterday’s Kyouko-san’ was also mindful of that… she wrote a question about the posthumous manuscript’s release date on her left leg. As a valid hypothesis… but she had simply too much information to process, she never got around to proving her theory. For example, she had to confirm, ‘No suicides come out in Sunaga works’ by reading every work individually… no matter how plausible it was, she wouldn’t get around to proving her theory until she finished reading one hundred books. But today’s Kyouko-san was missing that information from the start… that’s precisely why she was able to simply focus her attention on a single point.
I heard it a moment ago as well… the release of the new work that was probably going to be pushed forward would originally be in the February of next year.
“Up to the moment I dragged my feet to Sakusousha and heard it from Konaka-san, I had forgotten the contents of my request… but when I saw the list left in the dressing room, what’s this? I thought. The release dates skewed for only the standalones… luckily, I had already read half of his standalone works… I remembered them, so I bought the other half at a bookstore along the way, and had a read through… it was my good fortune they weren’t out of print. And after reading the manuscript I received from Konaka-san, I reached my conclusion…”
Including the manuscript, it was just four books, so I read them in no time. Kyouko-san said—while I doubt she could read four books in no time, compared to reading one hundred, there was a world of difference in the effort required. She got off without rereading the works she remembered, after all…
“… The seven books thought of as standalones are all a single established series centered around a single theme.”
“… I’m not really seeing it.”
Kondou-san answered with caution. Being the one who made the list, perhaps he was embarrassed at his inability to spot the commonality so he couldn’t speak out strongly… even so, as an editor who used to work close to Sunaga-sensei, he had to say what needed to be said.
“In all seven of those works, the protagonist and important characters go without saying, but the themes and genres are also completely different.”
“You’re right about that. If I didn’t read those seven books looking for it, I’m sure I’d have read it that way as well. The reason being, what’s consistent among these seven works is… the side character.”
With a bang, Kyouko-san placed her left arm on the table and rolled up its sleeve… and with the fine-felt-tipped marker she had taken in her right hand unbeknownst to me, she started writing out the following details.
“In his first work, ‘Murder at the River’s Depths’… the main character has a sister, and a certain young girl appears as her classmate. She doesn’t do anything particularly important, her name doesn’t come out. She is simply treated as a friend.”
“… Was there someone like that?”
Though Kondou-san tilted his head, “I can understand if you don’t remember her… she really didn’t do anything particular, and her few lines were all plain. If there was any hint, then it was the fact her alphabetized seat number was close to the protagonist’s sister’s, meaning her last name started with something close to ‘M’,” said Kyouko, “And seven years from the release of ‘Death at the River’s Depths’, in his second standalone ‘The Victim of Mine Eye’, as the witness to the murder, a single young girl makes an appearance,” she continued on her depiction
“Only the name ‘Momota’ comes out, she is not given any definite description… she is nothing more than the witness, not the ‘true culprit’ or anything, and after that, she is not given any particularly important role.”
“On top of that, in his third standalone released in the February of nine years later, ‘The Life the Angel Treads’, the female officer protagonist has a pen pal who goes by ‘Kuwata’-san. Their gender is never made apparent, they are there as someone for the protagonist to consult with who isn’t related to the crime. In his fourth standalone released the next February, ‘Confused Killer’, a housewife named ‘Asami’-san shows the protagonist detective the way to his destination. In February nine years later, his fifth standalone ‘The Flutter Kick Club’ has the appearance of someone called the ‘receptionist auntie’, and another seven years later, in his sixth standalone, ‘Chartreuse Boy’, the protagonist’s children give their seat on the bus to a middle-aged woman called ‘Asa-chan’… now, to be released the February of next year, his first standalone in twelve years, we have his posthumous manuscript ‘Home Sweet Corn’ in which an old farmer lady visits the protagonist’s house to share some corn with them.”
Kyouko-san’s left arm was filled up in no time… with the depictions of the seven side characters who appeared in his standalone works.
“You’re telling me these seven… are the same individual”
At Kondou-san’s question, “If you look at it like that, it all fits into place,” she said.
“And I’m talking about the age. The young female student in his first work became a young woman in his second work eight years later. In his third and fourth works that took place nine and ten years after that, she’s in her thirties… in his fifth work another nine years later, she’s become an auntie in her forties, and seven years later, she’s a middle-aged woman… twelve years later, she’s an old lady in her sixties.”
I felt a chill.
It was as if I was staring at a person’s life through Kyouko-san’s arm… in his standalones, a single character was living their life without catching a reader’s eye? Without standing out, unnoticed by all- as a side character?
If that was true, then it was a fact that could only be deduced by reading all seven books in order, keeping an eye out for it… even if she crumbled along the way, Kyouko-san’s direction as a detective to read the books in order without backtracking wasn’t mistaken.
“Asami-san and Asa-chan are the same person… if you want to presume that, I guess it would be understandable, but Okitegami-san, don’t you think to label all seven of them the same is pushing it? Momota and Kuwata are different surnames.”
“I’d say she got married.”
Kyouko-san paid no heed to Kondou-san’s objection.
“As a side character to the story, she was never visited by any major trouble. She made friends, got married, worked, built a household, raised children… over the course of forty-five years, she lived within Sunaga-sensei’s works. And that is who… Momota Asami-san is.”
“… Even if that is the case, I don’t get where you’re going. Why did Sunaga-sensei continue to put out that side character in his six- no seven- works that weren’t even part of a series? It’s almost as if she’s a cameo… but no one knows who this Momota Asami-san is.”
“And knowing her is my job. From here onward, rather than a great detective’s deductions, it’s the result of a realistic detective’s duty… meaning a missing person search, a background check. I searched for any Momota Asamis involved with Sunaga-sensei’s life.”
Though I had Konaka-san help out as well, Kyouko-san gave as a preface.
“I found her in less than thirty minutes… when he was around seventeen, she was a girl his age who lived in his neighborhood. It seems they had pledged their futures to one another, but she committed suicide.”
I don’t know the specifics, Kyouko-san said in a businesslike tone… suicide. I wonder what could have happened… I could imagine some possibilities but… perhaps Kyouko-san already investigated that far into it but decided to keep silent. Or perhaps she didn’t figure it out, purposely stopping her investigations there.
The word suicide never came up in Sunaga-sensei’s books.
Was that… because his childhood sweetheart chose that means to go?
“T-then… was February the month that Momota-san passed… is that why he did it?”
“No, it was her birthday. She was born in February. Anyhow, I think that declaring that Sunaga-sensei became an author to let Momota-san continue to live on in his novels, while romantic, seems a bit forced. There were any number of reasons for him to set out to write… but at the very least, it could have been one of his reasons, not deducing that feels just as forced to me.”
To let the dead live on in his writing… normally, it might have been the sort of talk to laugh off. Having a character modeled after an acquaintance appear in a work was a common tale, or so it was easy to ignore as well.
But I could neither laugh off nor ignore her reasoning. It was because Sunaga-sensei had painted Momota Asami as a side-character. With a worldview of incidents that could become novels occurring left and right, nothing more than a side character… the sort of side character whose name might not even come out, he had let her live a life wrapped in normality. He had her get married, he had her build a household… the natural happiness he gave her was even shocking.
As an ordinary person.
Depicting her as normal… was the wonder to it.
Kyouko-san surely thought the same… that’s why her impression of the book changed.
It was the first time my impression of Sunaga-sensei coincided with Kyouko-san’s…
“They were never something as simple as a palate cleanser… to Sunaga-sensei, these standalone books might have been the sole novels he wrote for himself alone. Without anyone noticing, without anyone saying a word, among his many works, his prolific writings, he buried his own treasure. The grand treasure hunt Sunaga Hirubee used his entire life as an author to make… unfortunately, apart from his debut work, ‘Murder at the River’s Depths’, it seems the others didn’t do good in sales and didn’t sit right with the readers, but… when it came to this series alone, I’m sure Sunaga-sensei was fine with that.”
“… Then Okitegami-san. This is the important part, but… even if your deductions are on point, why would that become the reason Sunaga-sensei didn’t commit suicide?”
“Eh? On the contrary, why don’t you get it? Kondou-san, I’m sure you’ve already read this ‘Home Sweet Corn’, haven’t you?”
Kyouko-san seemed truly taken by surprise as she restored her sleeve– as if to say there was nothing left to do for her mystery solving and proof.
“Inside this work, the corn farmer is still lively and very much healthy. If he wanted to depict someone’s life, then it’s only a complete life once he writes in its end. Then this standalone seventh book can’t be the end of the series… when he still has to write Momota Asami’s plain peaceful death scene, after facing life head-on for forty-five years, there’s no reason for Sunaga-sensei to cut his life short.”
There was much to think about. Even if we begrudgingly accepted Kyouko-san’s deductions as truth, the human psyche was prone to fluctuation… in an instant he could feel weakness, it could all suddenly seem so inconsequential, and he could abandon the custom he had continued all his life, impulsively choosing death. In that case, saying there was no way Sunaga-sensei could choose death as he shouldered a trauma of his past lover committing suicide would make more sense, no doubt… in the end, now that it was impossible to discern Sunaga-sensei’s true intentions, it was all nothing more than supposition. I could not deny that Kyouko-san’s reasoning still ran along a vector favorable to the author as one of his fans.
So here, I must intentionally refrain from acknowledging the truth of Kyouko-san’s deduction… instead stating only what I know to be true. Meaning, that after that, Sunaga-sensei’s death was never announced as a suicide, he simply mistakenly took a little too much sleeping medication that night, what’s more, it was stated to be completely unrelated to the death of the great author… and from his position of no authority, Kondou-san persuasion of Konaka-san and the sales department worked; the new release wasn’t pushed forward, coming out the next February as scheduled. Of course, god knows what’ll happen in the future, and to we living in the present, time had had its fill, and we simply dispersed in Sakusousha’s staff canteen… Kondou-san had his next meeting to attend to.
“Kakushidate-san. Could you see me to my office on the way back?”
Just as I left the building, Kyouko-san brought up something like that… the road wasn’t dark, and it wasn’t as if I came by car, so it was truly a bizarre request, but there was no way I could decline it.
More so, that was where my personal problem took center stage… from here on was the mystery solving and the site of the trial.
Arriving at the Okitegami Detective Agency Building by bus, I escorted her to the reception room… at this point, you could call it a room I knew too well.
“Now then, Kakushidate-san, let’s have an adult talk.”
Kyouko-san placed her hand-brewed coffee on the table as she spoke with a smile… it was a cheerfulness that held a certain pressure to it.
“Is there anything you want to say to me?”
“What I want to say… before that, there’s something I want to ask.”
Urged on, I spoke… my resolve had been made long ago.
“The list of Sunaga-sensei’s works Kondou-san wrote up… you were lying when you said it was dropped in the dressing room. No matter how many times I think over it, there’s no way I would make that mistake. When I was so careful.”
“Yes. It was a lie.”
Kyouko-san answered without shying back.
“Why did you tell such a lie… Kondou-san was fed up with me.”
“That was a front I had to put up before Kondou-san. I perceived him as your precious friend, so I thought it would be best not to embarrass you in front of him. You didn’t want him to know, did you? That you nursed me while I was naked.”
She knew… she remembered.
I wasn’t surprised, I got an inkling along the way. Once I calmed down, it was obvious. No matter how great a detective she was, it would be impossible to reach the truth from that list alone… she called in Occam’s Razor, but that list was still too much information for the simplest answer. There was no way she could reach the answer with nothing but that inorganic table.
Though it would be different… if she had a hint to guide her in the right direction.
Right, just as it was with the treasure hunt in the villa, as long as she had a hint to point to the answer beforehand… for example, on the inner thigh of her left leg…
“… Meaning, what exactly happened? No, I just knew there was no way I could have dropped the list in the dressing room, and I still don’t understand the situation whatsoever… though I could tell you actually knew who I was, but played dumb. You would have to have woken up sometime before I erased the hint from your body.”
She nodded so easily I felt let down.
“To be more precise, by the time you lifted me in a princess cradle in the bathroom, I was actually already awake.”
So right at the start.
I see, I did think she was sleeping too deeply, but… I accepted it because she had stayed up four nights, but come to think of it, by that point, even if she was bathed in cold water, Kyouko-san still managed to get some sleep…
“It looks like you’re unaware, but I tend to be a short sleeper. The fatigue on my body aside, given a few hours, I can recover my mental fatigue.”
I didn’t know that one… no, I’m sure it was a hidden speck Kyouko-san kept as the forgetful detective’s trump card. I felt like I had completely been played.
“Mn? But even if it was just for a few hours, if you fell asleep, your memory must have…”
“Yes, it was reset… therefore, when I regained consciousness, I had no idea what was going on. I was in complete confusion… and so, I decided to keep my eyes shut and pretend to be asleep.”
That wasn’t the decisive power of a person in complete confusion… by the time she noticed it, her memories were gone, she was naked, and she was being held up by a giant of a man. For her to pretend to sleep through that… what pluck.
On the verge of saying something, Kyouko-san stood from the sofa. There was still plenty of coffee for the both of us, so I wondered where she was going when she retrieved the kitchen detergent and paper towels and handed them over to me.
“Can I leave this one to you? It’s confidential information, so I must dispose of it.”
She said as she held out her sleeve-rolled left arm- the depiction of Momota Asami-san in seven works- to me. With no means to resist, as if spreading ointment over her, I gently erased the traces of magic marker on Kyouko-san’s arm… just as I did the night before.
“Meaning… when I left to get supplies from the kitchen like that, you caught sight of the hint on your own left leg.”
“It wasn’t just the hint, my own identity written on my chest… the details of my job on my left arm, and the contract on my right arm as well. I deduced that you were the giant written on my abdomen.”
Which means before I could carefully erase them, Kyouko-san had already read and memorized all the messages… that was just too much.
“Well, that alone still wasn’t enough for me to get my bearings. After that, when you moved to the bathroom to put the towel in the laundry basket, I swiped the list in question from a cardboard box containing a large number of Sunaga Hirubee books.”
I was actually searching for that unpublished manuscript I was supposed to be working on, but unluckily, it seems it was in the other box, and I didn’t make it in time to inspect it, Kyouko-san explained.
“You returned from the bathroom faster than I expected, so the most I could manage was to make off with one enigmatic sheet of paper from the box– before I hurriedly leapt into the bed.”
I thought she had terrible sleeping posture, so that’s what it was. But for her to feign sleep all throughout while I wiped her down and dressed her in undergarments and pajamas… just looking at it objectively, just what sort of scene was that?
“Once you left, I compared the hint and the list, and roughly arrived at the answer… the rest is just as I explained to Kondou-san. The only difference from reality is that I suspected a high probability you had put a gag order on Kondou-san, so I intended to hear out Konaka-san first from the start.”
“… If you saw through it that far, you could have just stopped me last night. The way things are, I really feel like an idiot here.”
When I shelved my own deeds to criticize her, “I missed the right opportunity to pretend to wake up, to be honest,” she answered.
“I love to see boys hard at work… and I got the feeling my safety alone was guaranteed if I continued pretending to sleep.”
That was true… no matter what messages were left on her body, there was a possibility I was just a hoodlum. With that in mind, Kyouko-san aiming for my absence to rummage through the cardboard box was an act of brute courage.
“… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean any harm… back then, I thought that was for the best. But I was way in over my head, and the mere thought of me doing something beneficial to Kyouko-san is–”
“Ah, no, I didn’t call you here because I wanted you to apologize. It was definitely embarrassing for you to see me naked, but I’m sure I’ll forget all about it once I sleep and get up.”
When the words of apology finally escaped my mouth, Kyouko-san answered as if nothing happened at all.
“And I said it, didn’t I? It’s pretty much thanks to you that I managed to solve the case. Looking at the result, it was because you took all of Sunaga-sensei’s works off with you that I was able to narrow down my theory. In regards to that, I can’t thank you enough… it’s just.”
Kyouko-san stood a second time, this time walking in the opposite direction of the kitchen—towards her bedroom. As I stayed seated on the sofa, “Follow me,” she chided.
“Oh… Are you sure? You told me I definitely couldn’t go in…”
“The one who said that was yesterday’s me, right? What’s more, you’ve already gone in and out a number of times.”
Flicking on the light switch, Kyouko walked until she was right beside the bed before turning to me and pointing at the ceiling… the crude letters written over it.
‘From today onwards, you are Okitegami Kyouko.
You will live as a detective.’
“The reason I called you here today is to silence you. You haven’t told anyone about the words written on this ceiling, have you?”
“Not a soul.”
The smiling Kyouko-san, only at that moment did she make a serious face as she asked me… flustered as I was, I gave an honest answer. I hadn’t told Kondou-san about the ceiling… because I had no idea what to say about it.
“B-but what does it mean? Who wrote this message?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because I want to find out… that I’m working as a detective. I want to know who the ‘criminal’ is that forced me to be a detective.”
“But it really puts me at ease. Last night when you left, before I saw the words on my body, the first thing I looked at was the ceiling… the moment I know I’m Okitegami Kyouko, it’s like the gears all fit into place. Even if I have no memory… as long as I have that name, I got the feeling I’d be able to live another day.”
In which case, the letters on the ceiling were deeper rooted than I thought… they were in paint, so a kitchen detergent wouldn’t erase them, and in the first place, were they something alright to erase? They were also an important lead to search out the ‘culprit’ who made Kyouko-san into a detective.
“So I must ask you don’t disclose this matter. If it got out a detective is working as a detective by the word of some masked mystery, it will affect the credibility of this office.”
And for the first time since she entered the bedroom, Kyouko-san broke into a smile… it was her usual business smile.
A smile simply kind, simply gentle.
“I understand. I swear I’ll never tell anyone about it… Kyouko-san.”
“Yes? What is it?”
“I have a request of my own.”
“What’s this? Is it a request for a new job? In that case, you’d better wait for the day to change… in the end, I’ve been up ever since that moment, and that short sleep didn’t solve my sleep deficiency. I think I’ve learned something from this case. No, even if I learn it, I’ll just forget it, but–”
“All I’ve done to you this time around. The various betrayals and falsehoods I’ve worked. I’m begging you, would it be possible for you to forgive me for them?”
Hearing that, Kyouko-san blinked her eyes in apparent surprise… it was as if she was trying to say the matter was already settled.
“Hey now. I already told you not to mind it, didn’t I? Forgive you or not, once tomorrow comes around, I’ll–”
“But I won’t.”
I want today’s Kyouko-san to forgive me.
I said as I continued earnestly lowering my head… I was aware I was saying something stupid, and I think I simply wanted to put myself at ease.
But I was filled with regret.
Back at Sunaga-sensei’s villa, when we parted with the air still awkward between us… if Kyouko-san only had today, then I needed to reconcile with her within the day. I needed to apologize and have her forgive me within the day. I wanted to make peace with her before she forgot. Even if it was a relationship that would disappear by tomorrow.
“If today’s Kyouko-san doesn’t forgive me, I’ll never be able to ask tomorrow’s Kyouko-san for help. I don’t want that. Even if you forget, I’ll always remember.”
I wanted Kyouko-san’s help in times to come.
“Strangely… it wasn’t that scary, you know.”
With my head still lowered, Kyouko-san spoke to me. Those seemed to be the continuations of the words she was about to say in the reception room.
“When I woke up in your arms. When you put me to sleep in this bed, when you wiped off the words on my body. I wonder what you call it, it actually set my mind at ease. If I leave it to this person, I’m sure I’ll be fine… I thought. Back then, I said I lost the right opportunity to wake up… but in all honesty, I think I wanted you to pamper me more, Kakushidate-san.”
“My memories are reset every day, but that is to the end, a problem of the ‘brain’. My body and my heart are left to the wayside to continue on and on… they change day by day, year by year, but those bring an influence to my mind as well. Yesterday’s me is by no means the same as today’s me. If you’re wondering what I’m trying to say… my body remembers what I’ve experienced. The reason I could feel at peace and defenselessly leave my body to you was surely because to this point you’ve always been kind to me. In this matter as well, you didn’t have to tell me. I understood you were doing it for my sake.”
So please raise your head.
“I forgive you. So if you ever have the need, don’t hesitate to depend on the Okitegami Detective agency… is that enough?”
“… Yes. Thank you.”
I was happy.
She didn’t just forgive me… I was happy the relation I had somehow forged with Kyouko-san a number of times, the relationship that had been forgotten wasn’t for nothing.
No matter how many times it was forgotten, even if I had to start from square one every time we met… it wasn’t meaningless.
“Then let’s shake on it.”
As I answered in a shaking voice, Kyouko-san held out her hand… I hurriedly gripped it back, yet at the same time felt myself yanked towards her. It wasn’t a strong pull, but it was sudden after all, and I staggered forward.
“W… what is it? Kyouko-san.”
“Don’t be silly… Kakushidate-san, after all you’ve said, you never thought I would forgive you for free, did you?”
Kyouko-san gripped it tight, showing no signs or releasing me.
She made it sound like a joke, but her eyes were series. I guess despite everything, Kyouko-san still wouldn’t overlook a possible payment… of course, I didn’t apologize with half-baked resolve. “Yes. I’ll do anything. I know it’s nothing I can take back, but it it’s within my power, I’ll do anything to atone,” I said.
“Then,” There Kyouko-san held up the index finger of her left hand, touching my chest… she gently smiled.
“How about you show me your naked self?”
(Farewell, Kyouko-san– Case Forgotten)
This is about Gifube Nagame’s mother, but through Chief Emii, it seems she was introduced to a good ophthalmologist… as her declining eyesight was brought on by the years, even using the latest technology modern medicine had to offer, there was a limit to what could be done, but perhaps maintaining her current level of vision would be possible. It was a bit surprise, but I doubt that meant Lab Chief Emii was actually a good person… a genius of his level really couldn’t be measured with the likes of my measuring stick.
The popular manga artist Satoi-sensei continued working steadily thereafter- this might be a digression, but there was nothing amiss with Kyouko’san’s detective, strike that, woman’s intuition, and it seems she proposed to Kondou-san the other day. If my total sales exceed twenty million, please marry me… I get the feeling Kondou-san took it as a child’s joke, but now I wonder.
Kondou-san’s work paid off, and Sunaga-sensei’s posthumous work was published the February of the following year… despite its label as Sunaga Hirubee’s final work, unfortunately, its sales were unfavorable. The fact it was a standalone was its undoing… if Momota Asami’s name was attached to it, the numbers might have changed, but perhaps to respect the unspoken will of a late and great author, or because such a faint dis-credible deduction was determined unusable as a selling point, it was never publicized. By the way, the official title was made, ‘The Cob of the Corn’… ‘Home Sweet Corn’ wasn’t a bad title, but in choosing between the two, it seems Kyouko-san got some reward for staying up four nights. Well, I doubt Sunaga-sensei would be against it.
And I, Kakushidate Yakusuke… truthfully, I might just happen to still be in temporary retirement with some job hunting on the side. It’s been quite a long time since I was unable to find work over such a long period… good grief, there are some terrible times we live in. Just writing up a resume makes me feel down, so lately I’ve gotten around to amateur hobby writing to kill some time… I thought I might give shape here to the countless incidents I’ve been caught up in. No, I don’t mean to say Sunaga Hirubee influenced my life… and it’s not like I’ve completely run out of options so I’ve thrown everything away to become an author. In the first place, the story of my life involves nothing but fearsome cases I can’t announce to the world at large. I don’t plan on putting it out, this is nothing more than a personal record. If I leave records, I might be able to see a trend and put together some countermeasures next time I become a target of suspicion… and even if that isn’t the case, they might prove useful in some way or another.
I’ve only just started writing, so knowing me, I might grow tired of it along the way, but for now, I’ve decided on the title of my first book.
‘The Memorandum of Okitegami Kyouko’.
I’m sure it’s a book I won’t forget.
If you say that everyone says that, then perhaps so could be said, but there are a number of times when I think it would be nice if I could freely control my own memory, meaning the ability to choose what I want to remember and what I want to forget at my own discretion, but, no, I can’t say for sure whether that’s truly a good thing or not, but if I remembered only the fun and interesting things and forgot all the terrible and sad, I get the feeling I’ll be able to maintain a considerably healthy mind. A moderate amount of stress might be necessary for life, and a human soul might mature by overcoming pain, but even so, what’s unpleasant is unpleasant. If possible, then after the soul has matured from that moderate stress and pain, I’d like for that experience to be cleanly wiped away. Well, it seems this talk is surprisingly not just an empty theory, and there are actually quite a few ‘geniuses who forget the fact they put in effort’ out there, it seems. While putting in enough effort to sweat blood, the sort of person that completely forgets it and falls under the pretension, ‘This glorious bastard is overflowing with natural talent!’. I can’t really tell whether that’s humble of boastful. That aside, in the case that I actually became able to control my own memories, in other words, when confronting the problem of how to choose the events I’ve experienced or stories I’ve heard, you could say I hold a large doubt over whether I’m capable of making the right decision. Rather, wouldn’t it be impossible to determine what memories would bring you benefits, and which ones would not? … You know, perhaps I already carried out this thought experiment yesterday but just forgot about it.
This book is the case log of the forgetful detective—as always, the contents are such that I can’t really tell if I’ve returned to the start or entered new territory, but I’m wondering if this is a mystery novel I was only able to write precisely because I wrote the Monogatari Series and Densetsu Series. Her memories reset every day, and that’s precisely why she can strictly maintain a duty of confidentiality, the forgetful detective who solves any case in one day—and an unemployed university graduate who is simply dragged into cases, simply dressed up in false allegations. To Yakusuke-kun, being dragged into cases is a disaster, but because that means he can call Kyouko-san, perhaps it’s tied to delight as well? Harsh and fun memories are two sides of the same coin, I guess. I hope the punchline of this series isn’t that, ‘Yakusuke-kun finally commits his own crime because he wants to call Kyouko-san’… anyways, with that in mind, no, forget that. You’ve just read the first book of the Forgetful Detective Series, ‘The Memorandum of Okitegami Kyouko’.
Carrying on from the Monogatari Series, I had VOFAN-san draw the title illustration. What a wonderful Kyouko-san. Thank you most dearly. I think Yakusuke-kun will write the second book in the near future, so I pray for your continued patronage of the Okitegami Detective Agency.