“Come to think of it, Chizuru, did you ever use that fifty thousand yen?”
On Beppu Ageha’s question, Kirishima Chizuru tilted his head.
“You mean the fifty thousand I got from Officer Atami for solving that murder case?”
Chizuru replied in his same easy-going tone as ever. Chewing on some dried squid.
“What else could I be talking about? It’s not like you got a job or anything… so did you?”
Chizuru continued chewing on the squid as he shook his head to the side.
Even within Yumoto Academy, the top prep school in the prefecture, they belonged to the especially distinguished special class of the high school division. Within such a class’s home room, Chizuru was about the only one you’d ever find munching down on dried squid. That being the case, his classmates were already long used to it, so without paying it any mind, they devoted themselves towards preparing for fifth period.
Taking ample time to swallow his meal, Chizuru vaguely broke into speech.
“Even if I look like this, I have an eye on the future. Even if I have fifty thousand yen as temporary income, I can’t quite expend it, can I? To make sure I can live without working a day in my life, I have to start saving money bit by bit from here.”
“You can’t say someone working with the premise of never working again has an eye on their future…”
Ageha let out a deep sigh.
“Well, if it were me, I’d pour all fifty thousand of it into magazines, so I doubt I’m one to speak. But when I look back on it now, isn’t it real bad for the police to do something like that? Have a student deduce the truth and give him cash for it?”
“It’s all about the right person in the right place. I’m a genius, so when it comes to deductions, I can make a product at a level the customer will be satisfied with. And Japan’s a capitalistic country, and we live in an information society. If you want to obtain some sort of information, it’s only natural to pay an appropriate price.”
“And as always, you’re a master in the art of bullshittery… and you shouldn’t call yourself a genius.”
After letting out a fed-up voice, Ageha remembered something, and changed the topic.
“It’s been a week since you resolved that case, but did any requests come in from Officer Atami?”
“No, none. I didn’t give him my contact information.” Chizuru sparingly bundled together what remained in the empty bag of squid, “But if he doesn’t want to use my services, someone else will find need for them. We learned that in school.”
“So it never occurred to you to go talk to him yourself?”
“He’s the one with the request. When you want someone to do something for you, you have to go to them and ask nicely. My elementary school teacher said it.”
“You’re way too condescending…”
After letting out a fed-up voice of the highest degree, Ageha hit her hands together like a teacher trying to gather students’ attention.
“But that’s all the better in this case,” she said in a radiant voice, “Because someone’s in need of your services”
Chizuru looked on blankly as the squid bag left his hands.
“Eh? What are you talking about?”
“Oh, didn’t I say it? There’s someone who wants to request the investigation of a case to you.”
“You see, when I was talking about how you pinned down the culprit in that case, there was a kid who bit onto it. So they promised they’d come see you lunch break today…”
“Hey, wait,” Chizuru kept his languid tone as he tried to panic with all his might.
“I never heard about that. And wait, today’s lunch break is… right now!”
Chizuru’s torso that had been leaned over his desk swiftly jerked up. From the surrounding classmates, “Kirishima raised his voice!?” “Kirishima moved!” many mouths were leaking words of surprise.
And it was precisely at that moment, that that individual entered the special classroom.
“Ah, Yuzu-chan, here! Over here!”
Ageha waved her hand at the one who had come in.
The student she called Yuzu-chan looked at her and smiled, wandering over towards Chizuru. Small build, with a delicate impression. While wearing a dress shirt, the area around Yuzu’s sleeves had some to spare. Those small arms and legs somewhat gave off the impression of a small animal. Skin white as snow, and black hair to engender a dangerous contrast. That hair’s a bit short for a girl’s, or so Chizuru thought absentmindedly.
“Ageha-sanpai, I’m sorry! I’m late.”
“Don’t worry about it, we’re all good. Ah, this guy is Kirishima Chizuru.”
Chizuru was so flustered being called a this didn’t irritate him. The jersey the supposed requestor wore was a blue that indicated a first-year student. With the way they exchanged words with Ageha, it was clear this student was his junior. What’s more, even to Chizuru who barely had any interested in women, in regards to this junior, they had an appearance so cute his mind’s ascertainment system automatically identified them as a, ‘beautiful girl’.
… This made it difficult to deny a request. So Chizuru was in terrible dismay.
“Yay! Pleasure to meet you, Chizuru-senpai.”
The junior Ageha called Yuzu-chan said that with a wave and a smile.
Why his first name, all of a sudden, Chizuru hesitated, but he realized he didn’t quite hate it.
“Um… so is there something troubling you?”
Chizuru carefully chose out his words. Without harming the other party, he was trying to think up a means to avoid trouble. But that wasn’t going as he hoped, and Chizuru had felt as if his own brain cells had been rendered useless.
“That’s right!” said Yuzu-chan, “I’m really troubled here… Ageha-senpai said she had a great detective as a friend, so I couldn’t help but come over to consult. I’m sorry for coming in unannounced.”
“Yeah,” Chizuru spoke impatiently, “For now, could you introduce yourself?”
“Ah, I’m sorry! I’m Tsukioka Yuzuki! Though it’s embarrassing to have such a girly name. Ah, Ageha-senpai was my senior in the wind ensemble back in middle school.”
“I see. So, Tsukioka-san, what did you…”
Chizuru knit his brow.
“Wait a second, could you repeat that?”
“I’m Tsukioka Yuzuki.”
“No, a little further.”
“Ageha-senpai was my senior in the wind ensemble back in middle school.”
“One step back.”
“I-it’s embarrassing to have such a girly name, but… oh, Chizuru-senpai! Don’t make me say it so many times!”
“… A girly name… is the ‘ly’ really neccessary…?”
“Chizuru,” Ageha held her mouth to contain her laughter, “Yuzu-chan is a boy.”
Chizuru unintentionally kicked back his chair and stood. A second impact wave ran through the classroom.
“U-um, Chizuru-senpai. Don’t worry about it. It’s quite often that I’m mistaken for a girl.”
“… Yeah, I’m sure. But I’m sorry.”
“I appreciate your concern.”
As Yuzuki called out to console Chizuru, who lay dejectedly over his desk, Chizuru sent over a glance.
“So, anyways… what was it again? Tsukioka-sa… kun’s problem?”
Even now that he knew his consultant was male, his instincts that made it hard to refuse wouldn’t die down. That was likely a problem of Yuzuki’s looks that had surpassed the wall of gender.
“To put it simply, it’s theft. I want you to track down the culprit.”
Yuzuki gave a brief summary.
“Both my parents work with old pieces of art, so there are lots of pots and hanging scrolls in our house’s storage. The problem is that one of them’s been stolen… it seems.”
Chizuru tilted his head, “It seems?”
“Well you see… it all started half a year ago; my parents were placed overseas for work. So me and my ten-year-older brother ended up living together with our newly appointed housekeeper. Both me and my brother are at an age where we can make it just the two of us, but the house is a big one, and cleaning it is a hassle. But looking after the art pieces alone has always been left to a specialist.”
Yuzuki took a deep breath and left a space of silence. From there he continued with a somewhat nervous tone of voice.
“… The incident happened a week ago. That specialist who comes once per week… apparently they’re called a conservator… they came, and were doing the maintenance as usual, but there he suddenly shouted out.”
“That a piece was missing?”
Ageha, who’d yet to hear the details herself, asked away.
Yuzuki gave a hesitant groan.
“A little different… it wasn’t real, is what he said.”
“Meaning an art piece of value was swapped out with a cheap counterfeit by someone’s hands. Is that what it is?”
On Chizuru’s words, Yuzuki nodded joyfully.
“Right, that’s it! Um, that conservator, well he’s called Kondou-san… according to Kondou-san, a vase worth two million yen was switched out for something worth forty thousand at most.”
“T-two million became forty thousand!? That’s quite a margin,”Ageha opened her eyes, “Just how many thin books could I buy with that fortune!?”
“Calm down, Ageha,” Chizuru didn’t seem moved at all, “Even so, you sure seem calm, Tsukioka-kun.”
“Well my brother and I aren’t knowledgeable at all on our parent’s collection. Because of that, the crime came to light two weeks too late.”
“… Which means you know when the theft took place?”
“Yes. Kondou-san said the vase was definitely real a month before he noticed the switch. The storage the pot was kept in was locked the whole time, and there weren’t any signs of a break-in. In that one-month space, the storage was only ever opened once, so the culprit must have used that time… ah, lunch break is over. What should we do? I’m not done yet.”
“Then can’t you just come back after school?”
Ageha made a proposal.
“Ah, you’re right! Hmm, but is it really alright? Making a request to Chizuru-senpai?”
Chizuru thought a moment. He tried weighing various things. How much of a pain it would be, the weight of a robbery, the cuteness of his junior.
“… Did you bring it to the police?”
“We did inform them, but it’s the fact it was switched out that makes things difficult. The only trace something was stolen is from Kondou-san’s words, so the police can’t properly act. We are speaking with someone from an insurance company, and they’re coming over today. There’s insurance on every item in that storage, after all…”
“… I see.”
At that moment, a revelation descended unto Chizuru’s head. Today was Thursday.
“Then can I come over to investigate the incident today?”
“Yes, of course. I’d welcome it…”
“No way, what’s wrong with you Chizuru!?” Ageha raised her voice in dismay, “For you to want to investigate a case yourself… Just yesterday you said, ‘walking home is a pain,’ didn’t you!? Something’s wrong! Or could it be that? Not a disease, but love? Wow, so Chizuru’s finally…”
Chizuru cut off Ageha’s exhilarated cries, “There’s something I must ask of you.”
“Yes? Very well, I’ll do whatever you want!”
“Tonight, see, I need you to go to a specific place and study for three hours.”
“Ah…” Ageha seemed to have realized something, “I see, today’s…”
“Do you know the IOU Seminar? In front of the station?”
“IOU, is it? Yes, I know it. As I recall, Ageha-senpai attended it too.”
“Right. Me and Chizuru.”
“So here’s the gist,” Chizuru abruptly stiffened his expression, “In my place, I want you to go to cram school. Don’t worry, they don’t call attendance or anything. You just have to swipe my card as you enter the building. Just study in their study room for around three hours.”
Yuzuki blinked a couple of times, in a strange voice,
“I don’t mind, but is there any meaning to that?”
“My guardian’s a bit of a pain, see. My entry and exit log is sent straight to their cellphone in an unnecessary system instituted under the pretense of securing my safety, meaning I want to falsify it.”
“You’re showing off your useless side to your junior, Chizuru…”
“Um, I’m fine with that. What time does the seminar start?”
“Umm, school ends four thirty, and it’s a twenty minute walk to my house… from there, a ten minute bike to Yumoto Station, so… Chizuru-senpai, could you come to my house tomorrow instead?”
“Because you’ll only be able to stay at my house thirty minutes at most today.”
Chizuru answered with a straight face.
“If I see the scene, I’ll know the culprit in an instant.”
The fifth period warning bell rang out, and with a promise to meet at the gate after school, Yuzuki returned to his classroom.
Chizuru sent some resentful eyes towards Ageha in the seat beside him.
“Please don’t do something like that again.”
“Something like that?”
“Accepting investigation requests on your own.”
Ageha grinned, “But you properly accepted this one, without even demanding any reward.”
“He’s going to cram school in my place, after all.”
“Just how much do you hate cram school…”
“Well, rather than listening to lessons I already fully understand for three hours, it’s easier to solve a mystery for thirty minutes.”
Ageha smiled, “Ahaha, how irritating,” came her refreshing rebuke. Chizuru sent her a sidelong glance, and started into some strained conversation.
“… But Ageha. I want to confirm something.”
“That kid… really is a boy, right?”
“That’s right! Isn’t Yuzu-chan cute?”
Ageha had a look of excitement.
“A true honest-to-goodness trap. Ah, I don’t mean what you set to catch things. Among our rotten legions, the voices against traps aren’t few, but I’m enthralled by them! Ah, but rule thirty four is no good! The meaning lies in the fact he is in fact a boy.”
“… Your Japanese is sometimes a bit hard to understand.”
He didn’t understand around half of what came out of her mouth, but it did seem to be a fact that Tsukioka Yuzuki was a boy.
… Still, when Chizuru had been given an over-inflated title of great detective, would Yuzuki really trust someone who mistook his gender? Chizuru was a little anxious. When up to that point, he had rarely ever cared whether someone trusted him or not.
It was probably because he’d barely ever been depended on by someone younger.
As he thought over such things, Chizuru grew sleepy. The fifth period chime as his lullaby, he fell into soft slumber.
As Chizuru waited with Ageha by the school gates, Tsukioka Yuzuki raced over.
“Did I keep you waiting?”
To Yuzuki who broke a sweat as he came, Chizuru sent a light glance.
“Don’t worry, we’ve barely waited a minute and thirty seconds.”
“No, shouldn’t you normally say you just got here…”
Ageha fiddled with her smart phone as she threw in a reflexive retort. On the case of her phone- as if to signify its owner- was a picture of a butterfly. But the dangling mess of anime character straps gave such a strong impression that few would care to notice the code.
Ageha put it away in her pocket before leaving the gate.
“Then I’ll be off.”
“You’re not coming along, Ageha-senpai?”
“I’ll go do some self-study at the cram school. Unlike a certain someone, I’m an average human being, so I have to put in some effort to keep up. While I do have an urge to see you two get to know one another better, it would be more fun for you to deepen your bonds without me around. Well then, Bye-bye.”
“Yes, take care.”
Leaving behind Yuzuki’s admirable response, and Chizuru’s feeble wave, Ageha made off towards the station.
Once she had left, Chizuru looked at Yuzuki. White shirt and dress pants. If he had been wearing that when they first met, then he would definitely have been able to tell he was a boy, or so Chizuru cried sour grapes in his head. But distinct male clothing contrarily increased his young impression, making him look like a fresh middle school student.
“Let’s go, Chizuru-senpai. Also, it’s a pleasure to be working with you!”
They walked all the way down Yumoto Boulevard. Sidewalks and roadways, with a path cleanly cut off for bicycle use, that main street was quite wide in breadth. The two walked alongside one another.
It was almost May, and a time where these parts would gradually grow hotter. The days were stretching out, and in this time period before five, he still sweat a little.
“It’s a bit hot today.”
Yuzuki faithfully undid the first button of his tucked-in dress shirt. Peeking at the vague line of his sweaty white nape, Chizuru averted his eyes a bit.
“Chizuru-senpai, don’t you feel hot wearing a blazer and hoodie?”
“Hmm, let’s see. Well I’d have to say I do. But changing out is a pain, and changing to something else for summer is also a pain, so I pretty much spend all year in a hoodie, I guess.”
Yuzuki laughed, “What’s with that, you’re an interesting one, senpai,” he seemed cheerful from his heart.
Seeing him like that, Chizuru couldn’t help but want to ask.
“Hey, Yuzuki-kun. Do you trust me at all?”
“? Yes, of course I do.”
“… Even when I mistook you for a girl?”
Yuzuki gave a cheerful smile.
“That’s happens every day. And it’s my fault for having such a misleading appearance.”
“… No, no. That’s going too far, isn’t it?”
“You sure are kind, Chizuru-senpai. Ah, come to think of it, you called me Yuzuki just now. Not Tsukioka.”
“Yes, I did, but…”
Come to think of it, perhaps he did. Because a gender-neutral name like Yuzuki fit the boy perfectly, he had been calling him so in his heart all the way. That was probably why.
“I’m happy to have someone call me by my first name. In that case, you don’t have to add on a –kun.”
Calling a junior, what’s more, a boy who looked like a girl by first name, had a sort of awkwardness associated with first experiences. But to Chizuru who primarily thought conversing with people was a pain to begin with, even shortening something by the three letters of –kun was something to be thankful for.
“I see, then Yuzuki.”
Yuzuki gave a full-face smile.
“Thank you! Chizuru-senpai!”
… He sure is cute. Though he’s a guy.
Chizuru felt an indescribably itchy sensation.
To what started as somewhat a pain, he had become so emotion attached. As expected, he couldn’t decline… well I’ll solve the case in an instant, and he’ll go to cram school for me. Unlike that murder case from before, this is a robbery, so I doubt it’s too serious…
At that moment, Chizuru still had that mindset.