Answer

Sorachi Aoi lay atop her bed at the Yumoto General Hospital.
Outside the window, the sky was already dyed in twilight.

She let out a sight. There, a full pain ran across her chest. There was no helping it. It had been less than half a day since her kitchen knife-pierced chest was sewn up.
A knock came at the door.

“… Come in.”

As Aoi answered, the door slid open, and two people entered the room.
The first was Aoi’s cousin, Detective Atami Itaru. The other was a face Aoi hadn’t seen before.
A young boy who looked to be in high school. He wore a casual outfit consisting of a white hoodie and jeans. His long bangs hid a bit of his face, making his expression difficult to read.

“… Um, Itaru-kun. Who’s this…?”
“Yo, he’s a bit of a… crime solving expert.”

The words Atami emitted as an excuse caused Aoi’s body to go stiff. A crime solving expert… which meant a terribly dangerous person to her present condition had appeared.

“Hmm…? He’s quite young.”
“I’m called Kirishima Chizuru. Um… Sorachi Aoi-san?”
“Yes.”
“He’s been investigating into the case, and he said he figured out the culpriy.”

Aoi opened her eyes wide.

“C-culprit? Didn’t you say it was Murasaki-kun?”
“That’s wrong,” Chizuru jumped in. “Murasaki Kinichirou-san was merely used by the culprit. The real criminal is someone else.”
“So, in order to obtain decisive evidence to pin down the culprit, Chizuru-kun wants to ask you a question, it seems.”
“Me…? But I never saw the culprit.
“I’m sure you didn’t.”

Chizuru pushed the screen aside, walking up to the side of the bed.
And he looked over Aoi. Aoi felt a chill run down her spine. He pointed her out with his finger.

“The one who murdered Murasaki Kinichirou-san… Sorachi Aoi-san, it was you, wasn’t it?”

 

 

Atami was taken aback.

All he had heard from Chizuru was, “I have to ask Aoi one last important question.” That’s why he got permission for a nother meeting, and came all the way here to see her… he hadn’t forseen this development at all.
Aoi was the culprit?
That shouldn’t be the case.

“W… what are you talking about?”

As she was connected to numerous tubes, Aoi knit her brow without moving from the bed.

“I was almost killed by him… and I’m the culprit? I don’t get what you’re trying to say.”
“That’s right Chizuru-kun! I never heard about this.”
“Because I never told you.”

Chizuru gave a short reply.

“By the way, Aoi-san. When you were bound and blindfolded the whole time, why can you say Murasaki-san was the culprit?”
“T-that’s… because I heard it from Itaru-kun and the detective who was with him… hey, Itaru-kun! What’s going on? What’s wrong with this person?”
“No, honestly, I don’t know what’s what… oy, Chizuru-kun!”

Atami glared at Chizuru.

“What sort of incomprehensible drivel are you trying to spout? Aoi was almost killed, you know? This isn’t a mystery, there are lots of cases where the half-dead person is the culprit, but in this case, it’s completely impossible. There’s no way she could have done this all up herself.”

Atami pointed at Aoi, as Chizuru had before him.

“She was stabbed in the heart! One wrong step, and perhaps she’d be dead. Her discovery, report, the ambulance! If any one of it was just a little later, we don’t know what would have happened. The doctor made it clear.”
“Well obviously,” Chizuru said calmly. “In the first place, by her plan, there was no way she should have surprised. Her own death was part of the programme… wasn’t it? Aoi-san?”
“You’re wrong.”

Aoi’s tone went up. But Chizuru ignored it and continued on.

“From the start, you were never kidnapped. You were simply playing a part in your own play.”
“Staging my own kidnapping, and killing myself… what benefit was there to me?”
“Quite a large benefit. At the very least, that’s what you thought… When it comes down to it, you had two large goals. First was the murder of Murasaki Kinichirou. The second was for the insurance money from your death to go to your parents.”
“Insurance money?”

Atami cried out.

“Right, insurance money. At present, the Sorachi house is in financial straights… Aoi-san, by your own death, you were trying to remove the burden on your parents.”
“What are you talking about? Don’t say such heartless things! Of course, I do love my parents. But I’d never think to kill myself to give them money. I can at least understand how saddened they’d be.”
“I’m sure you do. That’s why you also needed another motive for suicide… a despair that made you lose hope in living on, a powerful motive.”
“Quit speaking from pure speculation!”

After she yelled, Aoi burst into a coughing fit.
Chizuru threw her a look of pity.

“You’ve just suffered a fatal wound, so it’s best you don’t get excited. I’ll hear out all your objections, so could you first lend an ear to my deductions?”

In both disgust and intrigue, Aoi and Atami found they couldn’t take their eyes from Chizuru’s lips.

“You drafted up this plan from a certain motive, and you carried it out last night. You made it so that you were abducted after you left the college, but it was actually the opposite. You called Murasaki-san out to some adequate place. Any adequate place… perhaps it was the parking lot you spoke of… and you knocked it out. This was also likely just as you said, by making him sniff chemical. From there, you stole his key, snuck into his apartment, and erased the data on his computer.”
“His computer data?” Atami knit his brow, “Ah, come to think of it, Ibusuki-san did sat something like that… but why would Aoi have to do such a thing?”
“I’ll explain that later… then Aoi-san used her own feet to drop the threat into her own mailbox. Right, right, it seems that letter was printed at the Yumoto Music College study room. In this incident, there are three people related to that university. First is Murasaki-san. Then we have Aoi-san’s aunt, Momota Ai-san. And of course, Aoi-san… you yourself.”

Aoi averted his face. Chizuru paid it no mind as he continued talking.

“In the middle of the night, Murasaki-san was rendered unconscious. He was planned to, ‘commit suicide by briquette,’ so no one would question if they found a sleeping agent in his system.
“S-sure enough, there were sleeping pills scattered around the car.”

Atami groaned. Chizuru gave a light not.

“Right? And Aoi-san waited for today, May Fourth… It was time to make the call. You called home from inside Murasaki-san’s car. It was inevitable you called not in the prefab but the car. As he might wake up at any moment, keeping your time away from him to a minimum was the natural mentality…
Now then, before you called, you changed your voice, had a conversation with Kisuke-san, and let him hear your own voice to emphasize that you and the kidnapper were separate people.”
“B-but wait a second!”
“What could it be, Atami-san?”
“The culprit used helium gas to change their voice. After sucking some of that, it will take some time before their voice returns to normal! It’s unreasonable to assert Aoi was able to switch out the culprit’s voice for her own.”
“… That voice was recorded.”
“That’s not possible. The culprit had a proper conversation with Uncle Kisuke. It definitely wasn’t recorded.”
“That’s right. The culprit’s voice wasn’t.”
“… What?”

Probing through the breast pocket of a stunned Atami, Chizuru took out his smart phone.

“Ah, oy!”

Chizuru operated it as if it were his own, starting up the voice memo app.

‘Hello?’
‘… HEY THERE. YOU’RE SORACHI KISUKE-SAN, RIGHT? THE ONE WHO ABDUCTED SORACHI AOI WAS ME.’

What came out was Sorachi Kisuke’s conversation with the kidnapper… meaning the sound of the first call from the culprit. Aoi gripped the edge of her mattress.

‘S-so you’re…’ Sorachi Kisuke’s thick voice was shaking in rage. ‘Give Aoi back!’
‘DON’T WORRY, DON’T WORRY. MORE IMPORTANTLY, DID YOU PROPERLY CALL YOUR NEPHEW OVER?’
‘Y-yeah… but wait a second. Let me hear Aoi’s voice, I’m begging you!’
‘… WELL, WELL, WELL, NOW THERE’S A GOOD PARENT. WHY NOT.’

After a bit of noise, Aoi’s voice came through.

‘D-daddy…?’
‘Aoi!’
‘That’s you, right daddy… daddy, I’m sorry. I was…’
‘You don’t have to apologize, Aoi! More importantly, are you hurt? I’ll bring the money over at once.’
‘I’m sorr…’

And after a little more noise, ‘ISN’T THAT ENOUGH?’ came the frog’s voice. Chizuru ended the playback there.

“Didn’t you hear it?”
“H-hear what?” Aoi seemed agitated. “The culprit was properly talking with my father!”
“The culprit was,” Chizuru gave a thin smile. “But what about you?”
“… I-it couldn’t be… what you’re trying to say is…?”
“How perceptive, Atami-san. What was recorded was Aoi-san’s natural voice… Here, Aoi-san didn’t react to the words ‘are you hurt’ or, ‘money’ at all. Because she couldn’t predict what Kisuke-san would say beforehand, it was only natural… of course, she probably recorded separate patterns just in case Akari-san or Officer Atami answered the phone.”
“So she called with Murasaki’s phone, and played the recorded sound into the receiver…”

Atami noticed he had begun to tilt towards the ‘Aoi is the culprit theory,’ and shook his head to the side.

“No, wait. There weren’t any recording devices found on the scene.”
“It’s this right here. This.”

Chizuru waved around Atami’s smart phone.

“Aoi-san’s smart phone was found in the prefab in question. Exactly in the same way you did it, she recorded herself on an app. And When she was finished with her phone, she submerged it right before cutting herself.”
“I told you to stop it with the guess work!”

Aoi cried out once more. Her voice was shaking in unrest.

“Guess work? No, that’s wrong. The strap is the evidence.”
“The insurance company strap that disappeared from Aoi’s phone?”
“The insurance company doesn’t matter. The problem was the metal charm that made a jingling noise when moved around… meaning you…”

Chizuru peered into Aoi’s face.

“When you were playing your own recorded voice, you didn’t want the strap’s sound to reach the receiver. That’s why you took off the strap… you probably noticed the day before the crime. But when Officer Atami pointed out the missing strap, you panicked. Of course, taking off a strap is all up to the individual. If you said you, ‘felt like it,’ that would be enough of a reason. But you feared the million to one chance that would arouse suspicion, and gave the excuse it had, ‘vanished when you weren’t looking’.”
You… calculated it out that far?

Chizuru had read her answer before the question had even been posed. Atami felt a chill run down his spine.

“But you can’t call that clear evidence.”
“Exactly, Officer Atami. But there’s other decisive evidence.”
“What is it?”
“… Let’s just put that aside for now, and return to our outline of the case.
Anyways, having finished the first call, Aoi-san got Murasaki-san in the driver seat’s appearance in order, left the charcoal brazier on the passenger seat, and lit the fire. While he awaited his death, Aoi-san chose a suitable time, changed her voice again, and called her home. After informing them of her death and place, the clock was ticking.”

As Chizuru went silent for a moment, only the electrical sounds regularly emitted by the medical equipment seemed to resound especially loudly.

“Aoi-san, you tossed Murasaki’s cellphone into the car, and raced over to the prefab hut. You submerged your own phone in water to brake it. After leaving what you prepared beforehand, the ‘cloth and tape used to bind Sorachi Aoi,’ in a corner of the hut, you lay down on the floor.
From there, you placed a blanket over yourself, and with the blanket around your hand, you grabbed the kitchen knife, and stabbed it into your own chest. Meaning you did it with the resolve to commit suicide.”

Atami lost his words as he took a few unsteady steps back.

“The blanket wasn’t to block the bloodspurt, it was prepared so you didn’t leave any fingerprints… according to the doctor, your ‘wound wasn’t actually that deep’. That goes without saying. You stabbed yourself, after all, so you could only stab it into a set distance, before you’d be unable to bear the pain, and your hand wouldn’t move any further.”
“Aoi… why did you go that far?”
“You too, Itaru-kun?”

Aoi’s voice was chilly. With her brow sharply knit, the lovable vestiges of Atami’s cousin were nowhere to be seen.

“Even you want to say I’m the culprit? Come to think of it, you’re the one who brought this person here. From the start, you visited me to do such a terrible thing?”
“N-no… that’s not it, but…”
“Atami-san, from the start, you weren’t looking at this case with a level head.”

In the sheer lack of emotions behind it, Chizuru’s voice held even more force that Aoi’s.

“In the first place, if the goal was to obtain insurance money for the Sorachi House, then the house’s daughter Aoi-san was also a splendid suspect. And when a call came from the suspect, who was the only relevant party who’s alibi didn’t become a problem? Who was knowledgeable enough about Murasaki to make a scapegoat of him? Who was the one able to come into contact with him so easily?”
“… It was Aoi.”

Feeling like an idiot, Atami returned the natural response.
But Aoi tore off a few of the tubes connected to her, and raised the upper half of her body.

“Are you treating me as a fool!?” She cried in agitation. “Yes, if we follow your line of logic, it’s possible for me to have committed the crime. But we’re talking about possibilities. How can you say with certainty that the top suspect Murasaki-kun isn’t the culprit?”
“The culprit in this case had full knowledge of the Sorachi House’s circumstances. That your parents would go to sleep without waiting for your return. That Kiske had two nephews. That one of them was named Atami Itaru, and that he was a detective. An outsider like Murasaki-san wouldn’t be able to investigate that much information.”
“You can’t say for certain! He was following my around, and he surely investigated me.”
“However, if he did investigate, that raises the question of why he didn’t know Kisuke-san’s other nephew, Sorachi Takurou-san was off overseas. It’s almost as if he planned to call Officer Atami from the start, and planned to use it as a pretense to carry out your murder.”
“If Murasaki-kun was the culprit, perhaps that was the case. It seems he hated me considerably… that’s right. Just as you said, he intended to kill me from the start. So he knew Takurou-san was overseas. He purposely designated my father’s nephew. By calling Itaru-kun, he made a pretext to kill me.”
“But there was one thing Murasaki-san would never be able to find out.”
“… Hah? What’s that?”
“That Atami-san would be off duty today. As an active member of the police force, regardless of golden week, he has work to do. And yet, knowing he’d be able to move around today alone was something no outsider could know.”
“T-that’s right! If a detective is on duty, it’s next to impossible to slip out. It would be strange to make me the ransom handler… c-come to think of it, I told Aoi I’d be off duty… it was me, her and Kisuke-san, when we went out for tea.”
“T-then p-perhaps…”

Aoi was fumbling over her words, her face pale as she grasped at straws.

“Maybe he planned to use the fact there was no ransom handler to kill me. And it wouldn’t be strange if I was bugged. He was a stalker!”
“Give it a rest already, Aoi-san.”

Chizuru’s voice was filled with a quiet anger.Before a criminal trying to talk their way out of it, he made the eyes of a hunter.

“I have decisive evidence that you, and only you, could have committed the crime.”
“W-what do you mean?”
“… You were kidnapped, you opened your eyes, you answered the phone, you were stabbed. You were locked in the prefab hut all that time. Isn’t that what you said?”
“T-that’s right. Is anything strange? I was tied up and lying on the ground. I couldn’t do a thing.”
“Is that so… then Atami-san.”

Chizuru turned back to Atami.

“The spot Aoi-san was stabbed was in that prefab, and there are absolutely no traces of her having been moved… is that right?”
“Yeah, that’s right. From the investigation of the bloodstain, there’s no doubt about it.”
“Then,” Chizuru stated without a single movement of his eyebrows, “There’s no doubt Aoi-san is the culprit.”
“What!?”

Aoi hit her fist against her lap.

“What sort of incomprehensible things are you saying? Seriously, don’t joke around! Get out of here.”
“I will once you admit to your crimes… let’s listen to the call from the culprit again.”

Chizuru played back Atami’s smartphone he had been holding onto all that time.
The frog’s voice, and Kisuke’s exchange. Aoi’s voice he claimed to be a recording. And the frog’s voice again…

Again, Chizuru cut it part-way.

“How was that?”
“What?”
“It was quite quiet, was it not?”

Chizuru made an enigmatic expression. Aoi bit into her lip and replied.

“What was?”
“I felt something was off the moment I listened to the recording. Because it was after I saw the crime scene, that prefabricated hut. Why was it so quiet, without any excess sound?”

Chizuru cut his words to give some time.
After thinking a qhile, Atami shuddered.

“I… I see… it really is strange. There’s no way that could be true.”
“Itaru-kun! What are you talking about?”
“Right, there’s no way it could be.”

Chizuru leisurely smiled.

“I mean, the wind was strong midday. I live in Yumoto as well, and I experienced the strength of that wind first-hand. The windows of my room were rattling.”
“A-and what of it?”
“That beaten up prefab hut, you see, the whole place rattles in the wind. No, that’s not all. The broken storm shutter thumps against the wall. Again and again, it’s quite terrible.”

Aoi’s face lost its complexion all at once.
In Chizuru’s silence, the machines seemed to grow louder once more. It seemed to Atami as if that sound was there to affirm Chizuru’s reasoning.

“It would be strange if it didn’t reach the other side of the phone at all. Right, which means that call wasn’t made in the hut, but in Murasaki-san’s car… where the wind couldn’t reach, you called inside an airtight vehicle. Because the winds died down right after, you lost your chance to experience the racket that hut can make, it seems.”

Aoi looked down, opening and closing her hand. Her mouth opened and closed.

“Your testimony that you never moved once from the scene is a falsehood. Now Sorachi Aoi-san. Do you have an excuse prepared? Can you think up a reason why you lied on the spot?”

She couldn’t say a thing.
Atami couldn’t bear to look, taking a glance out the window. The sky was pitch black.

“… Why was it Aoi? I still can’t accept it.”
“The first motive was likely the insurance money after all. For Kisuke-san and Akari-san.”

Chizuru answered. As expected, his tone was thoroughly devoid of emotion.

“And I can somewhat read the other motive. Killing Murasaki-san, and still choosing to die on top of that… it’s…”
“Wait.”

Aoi finally let out her words. Cold and blunt… but running contrary to that, it was a strange, relieved voice. She surely had both emotions swirling within her.

“Let me… be the one to say it.”

Chizuru’s eyes urged her on.

“That’s right, um, Kirishima-kun? It’s just as you said. I killed him and tried to die my self. I had no other choice.”
“Aoi…”
“Three months ago, I broke up with him. I couldn’t put up with him anymore. Spending his parent’s money like water, and playing all he wanted, yet somehow he acted as if that was cool. I had a definite dream of becoming a singer, so I couldn’t endure being dragged around by his nightly games anymore, and I said goodbye… but he wouldn’t let me go.”

Aoi made a fist on both hands.

“Following me wherever… I couldn’t bear it. In scool and in the circle, he’d constantly get involved with me… I told him time and again to call it quits, to give it up already. But the more I rejected him, the more he stuck fast. He was probably a human who couldn’t recognize a situation where he was on the losing end.”
“You should’ve told a detective like me,” pleaded Atami with some miserable sentiment. “He was a stalker, right? That’s a criminal offense. Why didn’t you tell me anything about it?”
“He drove me into a situation where I couldn’t!!”

Aoi exclaimed with a teary voice.

“Around a month ago. I began to think there was no choice but to consult with you… but Murasaki finally went and got his revenge on me.”
“Revenge? What sort…”
“Revenge porn.”

Aoi’s voice was chipped and shaking, as if it would go out at any moment. Atami was speechless.

“… He, the ones he forcefully took when we were going out… he spread my nude photos within out circle! He used the net to give them to a number of male students. One of them secretly told me about it. So I… I quit the circle.”

Without even clearing her nose that had gone runny, Aoi continued talking.

“But… but… whenever I passed by the people from the circle in the halls, or looked at Murasaki’s face, it made me want to scream and run away. Stop, stop. Don’t look at me… that’s why, that’s why I… didn’t want to live anymore.”

Atami took a glance at Chizuru to find he was staring straight at Aoi. At the unforeseen darkness in his eyes, Atami swallowed his breath.
Aoi went on.

“So I thought I would die. But half-way to my dream, I didn’t want to die without repaying my parents for their support. Then I’d just be the same as Murasaki… so to make sure the insurance money went to my parents, I decided to make my suicide look like a murder. Conversely, I’d make Murasaki’s murder look like a suicide. If I did, he’d be forced to wear the labels of kidnapper and killer.
But I really didn’t want my parents to be suspected of insurance fraud, so I wanted to make an alibi for them. That’s when I came to the staged kidnapping.”
“So that’s the reason you set up the kidnapping in this case?”

Said Chizuru.

“In truth, there was barely any kidnapping in this incident. You could’ve just killed yourself in a way that made it look like Murasaki murdered you… in the first place, Murasaki had enough of a motive against you. So you set up the kidnapping so that your parents would stay in the house and create an alibi for themselves?”
“That’s right. And the ransom handler I had them call over, the detective Itaru-kun would vouch for it.”
“… So I was being used.”
“I really am sorry. But I had intended it as my last bit of selfishness before I passed… When I said I was sorry for dragging you in when you were off duty, I really meant it.”
“… The reason you reset Murasaki-san’s computer was to make sure your naked photos didn’t get out to the world, right?”

On Chizuru’s question, Aoi nodded yes.

“But what a pity. In the end, I survived… Just what sort of face am I supposed to make when I see my mom and dad? Really, truly… what a pity it is.”

“Is that so,” Chizuru’s voice had no emotion behind it. “But you did something unforgivable. Are you self-aware of that?”
“… If it’s about killing Murasaki, I have no regrets. A man like you might not understand, but my immodest form was spread to an unspecified number, it’s a thought that lurks in your darker dreams.”
“You’ve changed the subject.”

Chizuru was indifferent to the end.

“Certainly, I have nothing particular to say towards whether you remember killing Murasaki or not. But if you took proper legal measures, you could have put the man behind bars. But that wasn’t enough to satisfy you… this is, well, it’s over, so I can’t say anything about it. But you know,”
While Aoi’s face seemed to be clearing up, Chizuru sent her a harsh glare.

“On your suicide, you planned for the insurance money to go to your parents. That’s insurance fraud. Right from the insurance company your aunt’s husband works for, even. If it’s life insurance, the payout would be considerable. By your ill deeds, you planned to pass dirty money to your parents, were you really thankful to them at all?”

Aoi lost her expression, and sunk into silence.
Atami felt Chizuru’s words were much too cruel. He thought he’d raise a hand, but he somehow contained himself. The reason being Chizuru hadn’t said anything mistaken. The one he was supposed to judge as a detective was clear.

“Aoi… what you did… was a crime.”

Atami put all his effort towards making sure his voice didn’t shake, frantically spinning his words.

“However it happened, it isn’t something that will be forgiven. Anyways, while the truth hasn’t yet reach the police, you should turn yourself in. But even if I said that, you can barely move, so I could act as a mediator. Is that alright? You’re still young. You can do things over… where no one knows you, some new place. The faster the better.”

Tears welled up in Aoi’s eyes as she stared back at Atami.

“But… what should I do… daddy’s factory is…”
“I can understand your worry. But… there are some things in the world you just can’t do anything about.”
“Murasaki made revenge porn of Aoi-san.”

Chizuru spoke disinterestedly.

“The suspect is dead, so you’ll have to send the documents to the prosecution, but… you should be able to demand a suitable reparation sum from his bereaved family.”
“… Is how it is,” Atami felt relief at the lifeboat Chizuru sent as he spoke, “Aoi, all you have to think about is atoning for your crime… should I call the police over? Say there’s something you want to tell them?”

On that question, Aoi gave a quet nod.
Even as she cried for the end of the world, she was moved by Atami’s consideration, making a face of relief.

 

 

That night, Atami called Chizuru to Yumoto park.

“Was the phone no god? It’s already close to ten.”
“I wanted to talk to you directly.”

Chizuru was in a jersey, and it seemed that was his sleep-wear. He showed off the standard sleepy-man’s yawn.

“… First, I want to thank you for you assistance in solving the case. You have my gratitude.”

Atami lowered his head. When he turned back to look at Chizuru, he found him staring blankly.

Chizuru gave an intrigued laugh.

“That’s a surprise. Atami-san, I thought you’d be angry at me.”
“I’m still angry at you. Ridiculously angry. Aoi is my precious cousin, and the way you treated her was intolerable. The fact you didn’t tell me about it earlier was also the worst.”
“That’s quite something… I’m sorry for that.”

Chizuru imitated Atami and lowered his head. And as he raised his face, “Is that all?” he asked.

“… The thanks was one thing. Scolding you was another. And about your reward.”
“Oh?”
“The reward for assisting in securing the culprit. How much do I have to pay you this time?”
“… This time I’ll refrain. I’m not that much of a demon.”
“Hmhmm, that’s a surprise. I thought wasted labor went against your doctrine.”
“I have it set as my motto. But this time wasn’t wasted.”

Chizuru let out some enigmatic words. Atami looked at Chizuru to make some conjecture.

“… My final business is a question. I can’t help but ask.”
“What is it?”
“Why are you solving mysteries? What’s more, with a method where you don’t go out on the surface at all. What exactly do you want to do? I mean, right now, I don’t know who it is, but you’re being supported by your guardian, aren’t you? What meaning is there in accepting a reward from me?”
“… Let’s see.”

Chizuru narrowed his eye. As if looking far into the distance, it was a lonesome gaze.

“Revenge, perhaps? Against the police.”
“What…? What are you talking about.”
“The police can’t do a thing. More-so, they’re inhuman, irrational… I feel like proving it to myself. Oh, of course, I don’t have any problems with you personally, Atami-san.”
“Why do you… hate the police so much? When your father’s a policeman.”
“It’s that guy’s fault to begin with.”

Chizuru spat out his words.

“That guy wouldn’t do a thing… Even when my mother died.”
“Eh?”

When Chizuru turned his back, Atami reached out a hand, but he hesitated to touch the boy, lowering his arm through empty air.

“Good night, Atami-san. I await your next call.”

He quietly turned back into the darkness.

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