Answer

“Umm, well then… while there are still a few questions remaining.”

Ibusuki declared with her mouth tapered in annoyance.

“When Oku Tamotsu died, he was the only on in the House of Darkness, what’s more there was no method to lead him down the dangerous path… therefore, we must conclude his death as an accident… he didn’t read the notice board carefully enough, and by his carelessness…”

Yumoto Adventure Land’s management office, a meeting room. Explaining the circumstances to those involved, Ibusuki was, in truth, quite irritated. Even more so when she looked at Kirishima Chizuru staring back at her.

“But Manager Miyahara. This is also a problem on the theme park’s management side. I think someone from the prosecution office will make their way here at a later date, so you’d best prepare for it.”
“Yes… there can be no helping it. Someone died, after all.”

Miyahara seemed tired, as he swept aside his neatly pat-down hair.
To signify the end, Atami snapped his notepad closed.

“Now then, everyone. I apologize for keeping you so long. If anything happens, perhaps we will get in touch. And Miyahara-san, another thing. We’ve put no-entry tape around the crime scene, the House of Darkness, but that doesn’t mean no one will draw close. To make sure no suspicious persons enter the site, please keep it under careful watch. We’ll withdraw the officers.”
“Yes… understood.”
“Then you can all go home.”

The detained relevant personnel began lifting themselves from their seats.

“Ah~, we’re finally free.”

The blond college student Makita let out a voice cheerful enough to call imprudent. “Hey, Shin-chan, let’s get something sweet on the way back,” she badgered her boyfriend Oomiya.
Fukaya and Takasaki of the part-time staff went to ask Miyahara what they were supposed to do.
The man who came alone, Okabe diligently prepared to go home, while to his side, Tsukioka Yuzuki said, “Hey, Chizuru-senpai. We should go,” pulling on the sleeve of his hoodie.
“Hmm, you’re right,” Chizuru gave a vague reply.
Their backs to the gathered members, Atami and Ibusuki left a step ahead of the rest.
Once they had gone a bit down the corridor, Atami called out to his boss’ displeased-looking back.

“Let’s go, Ibusuki-san.”
“Yeah? That’s what we’re doing.”

As always, the woman in her twenties had scary bass voice. But this was a vital problem of capturing a murderer. While losing his nerve, Atami went on.

“Not that. Let’s return to the House of Darkness, is what I meant.”
“What are you talking about? What would going back there do for us?”
“… The culprit will come out.”
“… Hah?”

Ibusuki opened her long-eyelashed eyes. Her befuddled expression had its usual poison extracted from it, and perhaps it was even cute, or so Atami thought.

“What are you talking about? The culprit?”
“I figured it out. How the culprit led the victim to that hole. And who could have done it.”

That was a lie.
He didn’t figure anything. The answer was something Kirishima Chizuru led him to in its entirety.
But even so, the culprit would be desperate to destroy the evidence. That couldn’t be permitted.

“I’m begging you, Ibusuki-san. Follow my lead for a bit.”

Atami lowered his head.
Above it, he could hear Ibusuki give a groan.

 

 

Around three minutes after the police had released them.
That individual set foot in the unoccupied house of Darkness.
Crossing over the ‘KEEP OUT!’ tape, they illuminated the passages with the light of their smartphone as they pressed forward.

“It went over well, Yukio.”

Calling the name of their dear one, they ended up giving a smile.
They had finally managed to bury him.
That vile, cruel man who possessed not a human heart.
With this, they had fulfilled their revenge.
… Oh, that’s no good.

The individual shaking their head clenched a wet cloth in the hand opposite their smart phone. Dripping a bit of water, it wet the floor.
… They had to wipe that away quickly.
Their footsteps hastened. And doing away with one of the House of Darkness’ contraptions, they reached their destination point.
What their phone illuminated was the warning notice written on the board.

‘Please continue down the left path. The right is still in a terribly dangerous state.’

“With this, the evidence is…”

But the moment she reached out her hand, a light suddenly flicked on.
Her eyes clouded as she unintentionally dropped her smart phone.

“Ah…”

Reaching her hand to collect it, she saw a second hand pick it up. She gazed in amazement. There, stood the prefectural detective who was supposed to have returned… there stood Atami.

“W-why…!?”
“We anticipated you’d be coming here.”

She bit her lip hard enough for her teeth to dig in. Damn, it was a trap! She cursed in her heart as she turned around. But on the opposite side, the other detective Ibusuki was stationed. She turned again to try going the way she had came, but that was futile. A number of officers had formed a wall. She noticed she had been completely trapped like a rat.

“How could you have directed the victim Oku-san here… down the right path?”

Atami pointed behind himself.

“There was no other way than to hide or alter this warning notice in some shape or form. But if that happened, the unrelated couple that entered before them would be caught in the murderous trap. Even if you had the couple’s compliance to devise the crime, it was clear the two had left the building at the point the victim fell for it, and they would have been unable to retrieve the trick.”

Atami leisurely closed the distance with her.

“Then how did you do it? Without the couple dying, a method to single out Oku-san who came in later… it was truly quite simple.”

Atami dug through his breast pocket, and took out a flashlight.
From there, he stood in front of the problematic notice board, and lit it up with her smartphone he had retrieved.

“Nothing is happening,” Atami reported as if it were natural. “But if you use this light I borrowed from forensics…”

Atami exposed the notice board. And…

‘Please continue down the left path. The right is still in a terribly dangerous state.’

After that.

‘But for those with the confidence to conquer the right side, feel free to go for the challenge.’

The letters appeared.

“That’s right, you wrote up those words beforehand. Invisible unless held under ultraviolet, using invisible ink…
And there was only one person there who could ensure the victim Oku-san was the only one who saw them. That was the guide staff at the entrance who dealt with the customers… who explained the instructions as they handed over the flashlights…”

Atam pointed the black light towards her.

“Fukaya Shouko-san. The culprit is you.”

Her name called out, a flustered look crossed her face as she took a step back.
With no words to refute, she unsteadily shook her head as she leaned her back against the wall.

“The victim was a zealous fan of the one who designed this attraction, Producer Akabane. And in the attractions Akabane designs, it’s often there are separate routes for beginners and advanced-level challengers. Oku-san would undoubtedly choose the advanced course, or so Okabe-san said as well.
… Meaning your plan went like this.”

Atami cut the power on the black light, and put it away in his breast pocket. Throughout the whole motion, he never took his eyes off of Shouko.

“First, with some murderous intent towards Oku-san, you slipped into the part-time staff of this House of Darkness. It seems the victim was famous on some forums, and he would manage to infiltrate Producer Akabane’s events whenever they were held. As long as a stage was prepared, devising a way to come into contact with him was no trouble at all.
Now then, a week ago, you got a preliminary inspection of the place as a staff member, and you had your time to think. That’s when this plan came to you. And you carried it out today. The specifics of it went like this.”

While the surrounding officers swallowed their spit and watched over, Atami continued the explanation.

“A few hours before the opening, alongside Manager Miyahara and Takasaki-san, you carried out a final check of the place. At that time, you lowered that ‘Danger!’ metal plate in front of the hole. To make sure the other two wouldn’t hear the sound, you used a thread and put it down carefully, I’m sure. Though ironically, that produced an abnormality that, ‘the plate that supposedly fell was in perfect condition’.
Then there was one more important job. Falsifying the warning notice with invisible ink. The use of ink that only shows up under black light, had gained some fame in telling apart counterfeit bills, and in the postal service’s barcodes, but… at this point, it’s sold normally as a novelty stationary. To add to that,”

Atami hit his knuckle against the plate the warning was written on.

“This plate is a black base, the letters are white. If the pale white of invisible ink was lit up in the darkness, I doubt anyone would think of it any more than, ‘they made the letters luminescent to emphasize them’. The originals were handwritten from the start for effect, so he wouldn’t notice something was added on. Right, this is an attraction. Even if the light’s color or intensity was strange, ‘it’s for the effect,’ is all he would think.”

Atami turned his back to the plate, confronting Fukaya once more.

“So all you had to do was pass the black light you put some indicator on from your basket to Oku-san. With that, your crime would be complete…
Come to think of it, when Chizuru-kun and Yuzuki rushed in at the scream, it seems you didn’t try very hard to stop them. Could it be you calculated that the risk would be lower if the body was discovered by a third party? If no one was going, then as you were stationed as a staff member at the entrance, the probability you would be sent in was high, so it would work out either way.
Now then, Fukaya-san. What will you do? The invisible ink on that plate, and the black light the victim had during his fall serve as evidence against you. But more than anything like that, the very fact you came here with a cloth is a bit…”

Once Atami cut off his words, Shouko, who’d remained silent, abruptly raised her body, and spoke slowly.

“My crime… I’ll accept it. But I don’t regret it one bit.”

Hearing her cracked voice, Ibusuki took a step towards here.

“So why was it Oku-san?”
“… That man!! Shouko suddenly cried out. “That man, my brother… it’s because he killed my little brother Yukio!”
“Killed your brother…?”
“That’s right! It happened a year ago. Both me and my brother, we lost our mother a long time ago… our drunkard of a father was put in an institution, so it was always just the two of us… to each of us, the other was their only irreplaceable family.”

Tears began to build in Shouko’s eyes.

“We were real poor. But since he was still in middle school, I didn’t want to make him feel inconvenienced. That on my mind, I gave up on higher education, held a few part time jobs, and lived desperately. And one day, a friend from my evening high school gave me a couple’s ticket for one of Producer Akabane’s event. That sort of fun was a luxury we’d normally never be able to do. I really was happy to take my brother out… but I should’ve just given up on it.”

She opened her eyes wide. Those pupils filled with deep hatred were bursting with beads of tears.

“That event took place in a certain building… that Oku Tamotsu was lined up right behind us. And another space behind him was a little girl. It seems that kid was playing around with a rare item that had sold out, and Oku forcefully tried to buy it off of her. But that sort of thing wouldn’t work on a child, so Oku raised a hand. My brother always had a strong sense of justice, and he couldn’t overlook it.
When my brother cautioned him, he went into a frenzy, and pushed him away with terrible force. There just happened to be a flight of stairs behind, and Yukio took a tumble. As I was running for the stairs, I can still remember the words I heard Oku call from behind!! … ‘How lucky, I got two spaces forward’.”

Fukaya hit her fist against the wall. Her eyes were open so wide the eyeballs might fall out.

“At the time, my brother was still fine without any external injury… but since he said he had a headache, we went hope. Yukio repeatedly apologized to me. All the way, he worried for the little girl who got entangled with Oku… all the way until he vomited up in the train and lost consciousness.”

Atami had become part of the audience, listening attentively to Fukaya’s story. Again and again, she slammed the wall. Atami could even feel a sort of madness.

“He was instantly carried to the hospital, but my brother died. The cause of death was brain hemorrhaging. Needless to say, it was from when Oku pushed him away.”
“Why… didn’t you inform the police…?”

On Ibusuki’s words, Fukaya cried out, “And what would that do!?”

“If I told the police, it’s not like he would be charged with murder, he’d get something lighter like manslaughter. Don’t joke with me! You see, detective. Even now rather than me intentionally killing that man, I think Oku pushing my brother away without a thought is a far heavier crime.
… Right. At that time, I had already decided I would kill him. I researched the hell out of him on the net. But even if I say that, he was already notorious online, so it didn’t take that much time to identify him. And the whole time I thought over the best way to kill him. A few months ago, I spotted an offer for a job on this project and applied. That man would definitely appear, I was certain of it… more than anything, today’s the anniversary of my brother’s death, so I knew I’d definitely kill him today.”

Once Fukaya Shouko had finished giver her piece, she let out a sigh and held out both her hands.

“Being judged by the law is nothing to me.”

Ibusuki scrutinized those hands. And she took them in her own.

“… I don’t intend to lecture you, and judging the weight of your crime is for the courts to do. But Fukaya-san. Perhaps your brother’s life was taken away, and perhaps Oku was the worst sort of person, but… but no one said he ought to have been killed by you.”

Fukaya looked blankly, before closing her eyes in earnesty.

“… I know.”

As she hung her head, the police took her in.

 

 

“I’m sorry, Chizuru-senpai.”

Before the impressive Japanese-styled estate of the Tsukioka House. As Yuzuki saw him off, he sent Chizuru an apologetic look. The street was already dyed in the sunset.

“It’s the second time I ended up dragging you into an incident.”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s not your fault.”
“Chizuru-senpai, after this…”
“I’m going to go home and sleep.”
“… As I thought.”

Yuzuki gave a soft smile.

“Sounds like what you’d do.”
“I get that a lot.”
“But senpai. Why are you on such bad terms with Detective Ibusuki?”
“Who knows? Perhaps it’s because I took an impertinent attitude the first time I met her.”

Chizuru put his hands in and out of his hoodie pocket as he gave a vague reply. Yuzuki tilted his head to the side. His silky hair fell over his shoulder.

“Your dad’s a big-shot in the police… I heard from Ageha-sanpai. It somehow feels strange. I mean, Ibusuki didn’t look as if she was being mindful of you at all.”
“Yeah, when we first met, I clearly told her, ‘If I’ve made you mindful of me then stop it’. Me and my father are separate people.”
“… Isn’t your guardian an author?”
“For argument’s sake… what’s wrong, Yusuki? It’s been nothing but strange questions from you.”

Yuzuki put his right hand against his own soft cheek.

“I’m sorry, that was rude of me. But… Chizuru-senpai, you never say anything about yourself, so I wanted to know.”
“That so? Then I’ll tell you about it sometime… when the time comes.”

Yuzuki’s face began to glisten with enthusiasm.

“That’s a promise!”
“Yeah, a promise.”
“Yay… then see you later, Chizuru-senpai.”
“Yeah, yeah, good night.”

As he was going to sleep, while there was still some daytime left, Chizuru gave a night-time farewell.
Yuzuki saw him off, and by the time he was off on his way, Chizuru touched his smart phone. He stopped in his tracks and read the mail that had arrived. It was from Detective Atami.

‘In rush, so I’ll be quick. Culprit successfully captured. Will investigate now. Reasoning on point, thanks. Specifics on reward to discuss later.’

Chizuru quickly read through it, giving a lonesome smile as he put the phone away in his pocket.
The evening sun was on the verge of disappearing over the horizon, making a sky whose color was hard to pin down. Gazing up upon it, Chizuru quietly muttered.

“… How futile, if I do say so myself.”

 

 

Night, eight o’clock of that same day.
The follow-up investigation complete, Atami and Ibusuki walked beside one another.

“… Hey, Atami. Do you have a cold or something?”
“Um… pardon?”
“You’ve been acting strange since that dying message Y case the other day. The sort of guy who let a violent criminal get away suddenly became capable of deduction.”
“Y-you think… well, with the penalties imposed on me, I’m just desperate to redeem myself.”

Desperate to evade the question, he offered a soft claim.

“So, um… am I released from my penalty yet?”
“Until you can catch ten criminals… I’m sure that’s what I said. With this case, you’ve only reached half of your quota.”
“Erk! … As I thought. I’ll do my best.”

As his face slackened in a sigh, Ibusuki fixatedly observed it. And as of to catch him off guard, she spoke in a docile tone.

“… Is it really you?”
“… What?”
“Are you really the one deducing it all…”

Crap, the moment Atami thought it…

“Ah, Ibusuki-san!”

A voice called over. The one who called was the low ranking officer Nagashima. He swung his arms- brawny like those of a rugby player- as he called Ibusuki out.

“So this is where you were.”
“What’s wrong, Nagashima. The investigation should be over by now.”
“The thing is… I don’t quite know the reason, but Chief Kirishima Kankurou said he wanted to talk with you personally.”
“… The Chief of Criminal Investigations?”

Atami and Ibusuki exchanged a look.
Atami could feel a sense of unrest in his chest.

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