“Hey, Chizuru, did you hear? A male student of South Yumoto High was taken in for doing drugs. Four days ago.”
Golden week was close upon them, a calm Friday morning.
Meeting with Chizuru in front of Yumoto Park, Ageha suddenly spouted it out.
“Hmm… now that’s surprising.”
“What a light reaction!”
With both hands stuck into his blazer, walking with a bent back, Chizuru received a sharp retort.
“No, of course I’m surprised, but reacting is a pain… South Yumoto High’s quite close, isn’t it?”
“Right, right. The place Ume-chan goes to.”
Ageha brought up the name of a male student who went to the same cram school.
But Chizuru didn’t particularly deepen his reaction, instead letting out a yawn.
“Well, it isn’t that rare these days. Even so, Ageha, word spreads to you quickly.”
“Yes, I heard it from Ume-chan… Anyways, the world’s a dangerous place.”
Exchanging such a conversation, the two walked down Yumoto Boulevard. Along that path that extended in a straight line from their terminal- Yumoto Station- was Yumoto Academy, the school they attended.
“So maybe because that incident happened nearby, we’re apparently having a special assembly today.”
“Hah? Assembly… what’s with that?”
They stopped for a red light. They were close to the school, so the girls and boys wearing Yumoto Academy uniforms around them had multiplied.
“One of those anti-drug abuse seminars. It seems that a dangerous organization selling drugs to middle and high school students has risen in the neighborhood lately. Apparently, the student from South Yumoto bought his off of them too… so aren’t they making sure it doesn’t happen to our students?”
“Hmm? … I know I’m not one to say it, but our school’s students don’t feel like the type to be dragged into that sort of thing, do they?”
“Well, I get what you’re trying to say. But you don’t know where danger lurks. You could be targeted at night on your way home from cram school.”
The light turned green so the two started forward. Chizuru stifled a yawn.
“Well, in the end, we’re safe as long as we don’t go out, right?”
Once Sixth period had ended, the students gathered in the gymnasium for an assembly. It was an anti-drug abuse seminar. Some professor from a nearby college came over, talking on and on about something or another. And as he let it drone on in his ears, Chizuru let sleep’s embrace take him as he sat.
“Hey, Chizuru. Properly listen.”
Sitting diagonally behind him, Ageha noticed and poked his shoulder. Pulled back from his slumber, Chizuru rubbed his double-sided eyelid-covered eyes.
“I’m sleepy. It’s sweltering in here…”
“Endure it. You call yourself a high schooler?”
The bald-headed lecturer swung the mike in one hand during his fervent speech, and Chizuru blankly looked on.
‘To summarize… if you use the drug… it will impair your sense of taste! By which I mean to say… by their usage, among habitual offenders are some who claim to no longer able to sense sweetness… putting mountains of sugar in their coffee… there are those who exhibit such behavior, and…’
As the lecturer walked forward, the light of the projector was shaded by his bald head, perfectly cutting out its shape on the screen.
Chizuru looked over it, before falling asleep again.
The request for the case was brought to Chizuru after school.
After the lecture was over and he had returned to the classroom, Chizuru chatted with Ageha as he prepared to go home.
“Right. I ended up buying this!”
What Ageha pulled from her bag was a light novel with a tediously long title scrawled over its jacket. It was one Chizuru recognized. A work his legal guardian had penned.
“Ah, that book. I forgot it existed.”
“You could at least remember a book your own aunt wrote.”
“I’m no good at remembering light novel titles… did you read it yet?”
“I’m partway through… and anyways! Aren’t the main character and his friend Sumi-kun a little too close to one another? They’re totally an item.”
“… By my memory of reading it, I get the feeling both the main character, and his friend character Sumi were male.”
“That’s right, that’s exactly right. But that’s what makes it wonderful.”
As Ageha stuck up her thumb, her eyes suddenly locked on the classroom’s door.
Chizuru followed her gaze to find a single female student standing there. She leisurely walked her way over to them.
Long black hair that reached her hips, slender long arms and legs. While it had been quite hot lately, she wore a vest over her shirt, what’s more, she wasn’t sweating. A stately woman one could have pulled straight from a silver screen.
“Oh? Kurokawa-senpai. What’s wrong? There isn’t any club activity today.”
Ageha called out. It seems she was a senior from her club.
“Hello, Beppu-san,” the senior faithfully gave her greeting, “… I came because I had a little something I wanted to discuss with you.”
It seemed this would take some time, so Chizuru turned his back to leave the scene.
“… A while ago, you said your friend solved a case, didn’t you?”
On those words, the receding Chizuru stopped in his tracks. In nine out of ten cases, that would have to be referring to him.
“Ah yes… rather, it’s that one over there.”
Ageha pointed at Chizuru. His body stiffened as he slowly turned around.
“I see… so that’s him…”
The supposed senior woman slowly wandered over to Chizuru.
“Kirishima Chizuru-kun, no mistake? I heard from Beppu-san. Your name… and your achievements. The truth is, I have a request for you… would that be alright?”
Chizuru ended up giving a conditioned reply. The way she asked had already pulled Chizuru into taking her request.
Eh? What should I do, this is a pain. Screams echoed through Chizuru’s head, but he was already reeled in.
His opponent smiled as she introduced herself.
“Thank you. I’m Kurokawa Kaede. Third-year student of the high school division, and a member of the newspaper club with Beppu-san… for argument’s sake, just like you two, I’m in the special class. The other day, I happened to hear Beppu-san say you had resolved a murder case, so I thought I’d make a request… she was telling the truth, right?”
“… Yes. There was such a case.”
It was a case where a middle school teacher was murdered. Chizuru and Ageha had been led to the police station as the first ones to discover the body.
But the reason Chizuru resolved it wasn’t to help anyone or for fame, he just wanted to be released from the station as soon as possible, that’s all there was to it…
“First, let’s take a seat.”
Forcefully doing things at her own pace. This person was strong, or so Chizuru was certain.
Chizuru, Ageha and Kurokawa Kaede gathered some chairs together and sat down. The classroom was air conditioned, but since lessons had been over for a while, the AC had been cut, and it was sultry.
“So what is it? What did you want to talk about?”
Ageha asked. Kaede touched her face as she let out a deep sigh.
“I want you to save my friend.”
“… What do you mean by that?”
Chizuru couldn’t help but stick in his mouth.
To him, Kurokawa Kaede- a girl he was meeting for the first time, was nothing more that Ageha’s senior. Did he really have an obligation to save a friend’s senior’s friend? He ended up feeling quite unsympathetic.
“Um, from the intent of this request, there’s something that’s raised my concerns.”
Chizuru searched for the words he wanted to get across.
“… Collateral, is it?”
Kaede said it clearly. Chizuru ended up nodding.
“That depends on your aptitude as a detective… not that it should matter to you?”
“… That’s fine, of course.”
He had confidence in his own performance. Chizuru consented in an instant.
“Then let’s get right to the issue. We’re short on time… what I’m about to tell me is a story about my friend.”
Kaede lightly went into it.
“She’s in the same class as me, Toujou Mashiro. A member of the Wind Instrument Ensemble. I’ve been with her since the middle school division… well, our relationship’s one you could call best friends.”
“Oh, so like me and Chizuru. Right, Chizuru?”
Ageha suddenly turning the conversation to him, Chizuru tilted his head.
“Ah, right. That’s right. Best friends… that may be true. Thank you?”
“Why did you make that a question… ah, sorry Kurokawa-senpai. I cut off your story.”
“… No, I’ll just continue.
I first became anxious around two weeks ago. She was clearly acting strange. She was really under the weather, and it always looked like she was depressed. When we went to eat lunch together, she’d forget her lunchbox behind, she’d forget to prepare for class, these sorts of things have happened more often lately… the special class’s third year has a lot of things to prepare for. So she couldn’t follow the lessons, and to be honest, I couldn’t bear to watch.
Even when I asked the question, she’d just say, ‘I’m fine,’ and wouldn’t tell me anything more.”
“T-that definitely is worrisome. But, well, she’s preparing for exams, and I’m sure she has things in her club to worry about. What exactly do you want a detective like Chizuru to do?”
“Wait, I’m not a detective.”
As Chizuru retorted, “… She hasn’t gotten to the main point yet. Let’s listen to the rest.” He urged Kaede on.
She lightly nodded.
“Right, so her strange behavior continued. Just last Sunday I entered a café. Though I say that, I wasn’t going to drink it there, I was going to take it out and drink it at home as I studied.”
“Oh is that so,” Ageha got herself involved again. “You don’t like studying in cafés? When I’m home I always lose to the temptations of manga and anime, so I do it quite often.”
“Let’s see, based on the environment, I thought I might just sit down there and study…. But a group of housewives was noisily chatting away, so I abandoned hope on the notion. To add onto that, the few small sons they had brought along were running around the store. Good grief, why must boys of that age lack so much in character, I wonder.”
“Eh? What are you on about, Senpai? That’s what makes shota so cute.”
“Ageha, be a good girl and quiet down for now.”
Chizuru silenced Ageha, his eyes seeking for Kaede to continue.
“… Well anyways, I got in the line thinking I’d study at home.”
“By line, you mean at the counter, right?”
“Yes, that’s right. I had a few people in front of me.”
“Meaning the shop you were at wasn’t the type where you sit down and order… it was the type where you order at the counter, and sit wherever you see fit.”
“Yes, quite right… so when I got in line, I saw Mashiro was there two people ahead of me.”
Kaede’s expression clouded a bit.
“Since I was in line, it was difficult to call out to her, so I kept quiet thinking I’d go over to her later. Mashiro’s turn at the register came… there were two registers… and after that, I passed right by her as I went to the other register. She seemed to have a lot on her mind, and she went off without even paying me any attention.
But since I was there, I finished my purchase and headed to a corner in the back of the shop.”
Eh? Why? Ageha posed the question.
“I can’t settle down unless there’s sugar and milk in my coffee, but the person at the counter carelessly forgot and didn’t put anything in. With everyone in line, I thought it would be a bit mean to ask, so I went to the self-service corner in the back of the shop to take what I needed before leaving.”
“Oh, I see.”
“… When I did, I saw Mashiro in a dark corner, even further back. She was sitting on her own at one of those narrow counter seats. Apart from her drink, she had also ordered a parfait. It seems she still hadn’t noticed me yet, so I was about to call out, when…”
Her gradually diminishing voice went out entirely.
Silence fell upon the classroom. By the time they noticed it, there were no other students present besides the three.
“She suddenly conducted some abnormal behavior.”
“… Abnormal behavior, you say?”
Ageha gulped as she leaned her body forwards.
“… She put in sugar.”
“Eh?” Ageha sounded let down, “I-isn’t that normal? Rather, you put some in too, didn’t you?”
“What I put in was a stick or two.”
“Mashiro, at the time… put in what looked like a whole ten sticks of sugar into her paper cup. Ripping the bag and pouring it in, ripping another and pouring it in. She put in an amount beyond common sense, before wholeheartedly churning it up with her stirring stick… I was so scared I stood still on the spot. And Mashiro suddenly noticed me and looked over. Her face was pale as she awkwardly called out my name. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do… what a coincidence, I ended up saying, and after leaving a word or two, I left the store.”
Silence came down once more.
Kaede’s voice that broke the gloomy silence was gloomy as well.
“… The next time I met her was on Monday. At school, of course. At the time, she looked uncomfortable, and she wouldn’t give me any explanation about the load of sugar she put in her cup. It was difficult for me to ask… with this and that it all remained inconclusive, and here we are at the weekend.”
“Hah, sure enough.”
Ageha nodded and nodded.
“It’s definitely abnormal for her to continue putting so much sugar in her cup. I also drink it with sugar, but ten sticks is way too much. Way too sweet. Right, Chizuru?”
“… That’s right. By the way, Kurokawa-senpai.”
“In the end, what exactly is your request?”
She couldn’t answer at once, her eyes wandering a bit. She eventually went into it.
“Today, I get the feeling I solved the mystery behind her actions.”
“… Do you remember the contents of the assembly? The anti-drug abuse seminar.”
It was difficult to say, no I slept, so Chizuru gave a vague nod.
“The lecturing teacher said this. ‘The users of this drug have some whose taste buds are impaired’.”
“Yeah, something about not being able to detect sweet…”
Ageha swallowed her breath.
“It couldn’t be.”
Kaede nodded with a grim look on her face.
“I think Mashiro may be taking doses of that drug.”
“That can’t be!”
Ageha opened her eyes wide and called out.
“I don’t want to believe it either,” Kaede covered up one side of her face, “But can you think of anything else? Can you think of any other explanation for putting so much sugar into a single glass of drink? I can’t! And here I am, the one who watched her lose her vigor and wear herself out for the past two weeks. The lecturer said this as well. Drug users experience a loss of appetite. That’s exactly Mashiro’s condition!”
“Come to think of it, there have been dangerous people around lately, I heard…”
Ageha grew anxious. But,
“In the end, what exactly is your request?”
Chizuru repeated himself without changing his expression.
Kaede sternly raised her face.
“I want to stop her. Find definite evidence that she’s using a dangerous drug, and have her stop. I want you to find that evidence.”
“Why not bring this to a teacher?”
“No way! If I did such a thing, she might be taken away by the police. We’re at a private school, what’s more, the famed institution of Yumoto Academy. If she’s found out, it’s a one way trip to expulsion. Mashiro’s future will be a mess.”
“To state my honest opinion, I’m reluctant to accept.”
As if he had caught Kaede’s manner of speech, he gave a stiff rebuttal.
“Being carried off by the police has a reason called, ‘conduction of deeds against society,’ and is a matter of course. Expulsion is also rightly so. In the first place, when we know there’s one case of drug abuse going on, not seeking the assistance of the system and trying to combat the problem alone is a foolish notion. It’s been said you can’t stop once you’ve begun. So get her to a specialist, and get her some proper treatment already.”
“W-wait Chizuru! You’re going too far.”
Ageha timidly tried to stop him.
“I know,” Kaede bit her lip “I know I’m not even trying to do the right thing. But even so, I…”
“But have some peace of mind,” Chizuru continued on in his usual monotone.
“Toujou Mashio has no need to go to the police.”
Eh? Ageha and Kaede called out simultaneously?
“What could you be talking about, Kirishima-kun?”
“The reason she put so much sugar in her cup… I can’t conclude it yet, but… at the very least, I’ll tell you it isn’t taste impairment from the use of drugs.”
“H-how can you tell?”
“Before I explain how I can tell, Kurokawa-senpai. Won’t you change the contents of your request? From, ‘Find evidence of drug use,’ to, ‘uncover the reason she loaded her cup with sugar’?”
Befuddled, Kaede answered the question with a blank stare. From there, she firmly shook her head up and down.
“If you’re going to give me a proper explanation.”
Chizuru slowly let a smile cross his face.
“… Then off we go. To the café in question. If we go there, everything will probably explain itself. On the mystery of ‘Why Toujou Mashiro continued putting sugar in her cup’.”