Chapter 1: The Devil's True Form
The fiendish middle school student single handedly dominated 4 other classmates, and forced one of them to commit suicide.
Truly, it was ridiculous.
I heard of this news early in December. I, a 3rd year in college, was living alone outside, so I did not know about the recent happenings back at him. To me, it was too sudden.
I couldn't believe it.
Masaya suddenly died.
Masaya was an outstanding middle schooler.
He was someone such that it was more difficult to find out what he was bad at.
After he entered middle school, he, without any prior experience, started playing handball, but in his second year, he had improved to a point where he was the best player in the prefecture tournament. More than his own improvement, the shocking thing was that he was directing his own teammates, and in a year and so, dragged a weak team to the nationals. Through his serious personality of planning even the trainings down to the detail, and his cheerful words that anyone of any age would like, he quickly trained the rookie team until they were able to match the powerhouse schools.
However, Masaya's talent was not limited to just sporting ability and leadership. Particularly impressive, I should say, was his learning ability. He had a mind unmatched by ordinary people, and his academic test results were usually at the top, his grades always at maximum parameters. He even scored full marks in all the infamously difficult high school entrance exams in the country. Whenever he was free, he even helped the seniors of the club do their assignments, and earned some pocket money for himself. Ahh, he's some superman! He's a prodigy in both smarts and physicals, often hailed by the people around him.
"Taku Sugawara is the devil. Nobody should believe his words."
That was the will Masaya left behind. The 'boy K' reported by the paparazzi, Masaya Kishitani, wrote this on a piece of paper, and left this note in his classroom locker.
On a suddenly frigid morning December, Masaya hanged himself at home.
It had been only 2 weeks since his 14th birthday.
Masaya's my little brother, a unique existence for me, who had no older siblings, and he's a family member I doted on.
So when I heard of the details from the school and my mother, I couldn't accept it at all.
The incident was filled with mysteries, probably because everything I heard was hearsay.
It was early in November when I sensed some bullying, it was said the cause was a boy called Taku Sugawara. He bullied a boy called Takayoshi Komuro, and the latter sent a plea on the internet.
"There's a demonic bullying in Kuzegawa Second Middle School. The four of us are being dominated by a devil" The text narrated the horrible bullying they were forced to endure, like eating cicadas carcasses, forced to steal things, and they were all described with much realism.
Having seen such a terrifying bullying record, many people reported to the police, informed the school, and started a major commotion.
And then, on the second day of the commotion, it was said that Sugawara was agitated by this, and started a violent incident, thus proving that there was bullying. He smacked Masaya in the middle of the classroom with a water bottle.
"Bullying is an invention, a necessary evil to fulfill the soul. You alone won't be enough to stop the revolution."
Sugawara arrogantly sneered when he was brought to the staff room.
Seeing the sear-like red marks on Masaya's beaten face, the righteously furious adults took action.
They forced Taku Sugawara to realize the implications of bullying, and suspended him from school for 3 days. After that, they isolated him from the victims. The school punished Sugawara harshly, and had Masaya and the others meet the teachers to voice their thoughts.
Mother bought a cellphone for Masaya, and regularly contacted him, checking if Sugawara had been contacting them. Every day, she conversed with her son, trying his best to heal the emotional wounds.
The ones who took action weren't just the adults. The entire student body was furious. It was said that they had mental lynching on Taku Sugawara many times. From this point, it was obvious that Masaya was popular.
Taku Sugawara wasn't able to interact with the bullied victims, and ended up being an enemy to the entire student body, and ended up with a bitter fate of a tragic school life. Nobody stood on his side, and he showed no signs of resisting.
But a month later, Masaya killed himself.
Taku Sugawara really was the 'devil'.
After Masaya committed suicide, neither the school nor the police could exert any additional punishment on Taku Sugawara.
The reason was that, during the month after that bullying, while Masaya was in his madness, from what could be seen, Sugawara did nothing to Masaya. There was no evidence, and nobody could reprimand Taku Sugawara. Also, the three other living students indicated 'we don't know anything'.
Thus, once Masaya died, he showed nary an apology. He merely mocked Masaya "Until the very end, he's a fool."
The devil was never punished, and still lived on leisurely.
It's really strange.
I was at the park Masaya loved to play at when he was younger, and shed a tear.
There was a little hill at a corner of the park, and at the center of that hill was a playground. Built with faded colored plastic and appearing like some modern art was a collective piece of the playground children loved to play at.
Over there, I wept silently. My tears continued to flow out, blurring my vision. Having known of the details, I didn't know why I was more crestfallen than I was at the funeral, and I felt my heart about to jump out.
Compared to when I was younger, my point of vision's a lot higher, but I was undoubtedly at a place filled with memories of Masaya. The smell hasn't changed. The dirt and grass, the rubber rubbing against the plastic. It gently engulfed my body, and was the same air as it was more than a decade ago. I once laughed and played around with Masaya here, losing myself.
Thinking back about it, the most memorable moment I had of Masaya was still the moment when he called me 'big sister'. Thinking about this, my body inadvertently shivered.
"There's got to be a mistake!"
After that, I yelled out. I didn't know what went wrong. Maybe it was the school, maybe it was the world, or maybe it was the existence called Taku Sugawara.
"Masaya's more studious than anyone else, has an upright personality, and may be a little arrogant, but he's still my cute little brother. He's not someone who should die. He not a little brother who should have killed himself and say goodbye to the world without a whimper. How can I let Taku Sugawara live on while gloating on misery!"
Something's definitely off.
Even I, a mere college student, realized it.
I vented all my inner emotions, took a deep breath, and absorbed the air in the park.
I then clenched my fists, saying,
"I'm going to investigate this thoroughly."
So, I made up my mind.
"I won't let anything slip by me, and I'll analyze it all. What happened in that school, what happened in that classroom, what did Masaya encounter, what did Taku Sugawara do, I'm going to exact vengeance for Masaya."
I'm going to investigate this thoroughly.
This is definitely the only thing I, as the older sister, can do for my little brother.
"Wait for me, Masaya. This older sister will investigate everything for your sake. I may be useless, and a little of an airhead, but at the very end, I'll do my best."
The park at sunset gently echoed at my words
And then, I turned my back on the memory filled place, and walked off.
I began my investigations, and moved quickly.
The next day, I visited the principal's office.
And then, I faced the principal, stating the fact that I was Masaya's olders sister, and partially threatened him to meet me. The school had an obligation to explain.
Principal Fujimoto, 58 years old. Despite being advanced in age, he had a head of black hair, and it was unknown what sports he did, but his muscles were abnormally developed. Through the suit, i could see the lumps of pecs and the thick biceps.
"I'm here to investigate." I slowly spoke. "So, I hope you can go along and answer my questions."
Principal Fujimoto nodded.
"Ask away. I have no intention of hiding anything from you. This is the only thing an educator can do for the victim's family."
Then, he asked with some intrigue,
"What do you want to know next? The bullying, or the incident itself, I shall tell you everything the school knows."
"What I want to know is, the education policy by this school after I graduated."
Principal Fujimoto showed a smile. With a serious tone, i asked,
"Please tell me, what exactly is the 'Human Power Test'?"
I had to investigate on Masaya's condition.
And so, my investigations began.
The Human Power Test
There was a clear reason as to why I started inquiring from the education policy, and not the incident itself.
Because, amongst the information that was revealed in the turbulence of the incident, that was the one thing that caught my attention most.
It was obvious that the education policy wasn't normal.
I remembered that this policy was hotly debated when it started.
Some critics felt that it was a test that was avant garde, befitting of the times. Some enterprises had openly expressed concern about this school. The media hailed it for being cutting edge, a meaningful system befitting of its time. A famous person commented that it was 'disgusting', but he was immediately lambasted on twitter for being 'a hypocrite', 'just saying nice things'.
There were varying opinions, but it wasn't unreasonable as to why it got most Japanese concerned.
Because the Human Power Test was a scoring system where classmates rated each other's personality.
The Human Power Test was formed by two parts.
"In this era, what do you think is the most important ability for ○○? Please choose from the 3 options available."
"Amongst the students in the same year, please state the people with XX"
There were two questions.
For ○○, one could write leadership, superior, popular person, and all kinds of words. Like for example, what is the most important ability for a leader? What is the most important ability to be a friend? What people with what kind of ability can help in a culture festival? What kind of ability is needed for someone to be successful in his profession? And things like that.
As for XX, one could write stuff like kindness, seriousness, good looking and so on.
The students can post all kinds of their ideal images and the people matching this particular image in. For example, 'a leader needs to be hardworking, understands human feelings, personal charisma'. 'In our year, the most hardworking is Kanako, the second is Taeko', and so on.
Finally, all these are converted into points. Amongst the abilities the students valued, the ones with more points would have higher scores. The students rankings weren't fully revealed, but the students could see their own rankings.
They could learn of the values of their existences.
They could learn of the appraisal of their personalities
"Of course, starting off, there were a lot of criticism. 'it's unbelievable to have students rate each other', 'this is inhumane'. Well, those were conservative opinions."
Principal Fujimoto took a sip of coffee, and continued,
"But it is all nonsense. It's impossible to live on in modern society through pretty words. How foolish."
"Humph, the prior academic society is currently collapsing, and it's obvious to anyone now, right? it's true that currently, there are unfair job opportunities due to their education prestige. However, 30 years ago, it was impossible to have anyone with high education levels being freelancers. Back in the day, as long as one walked through the gates of a famous school, there would be countless good jobs dropping in from high up. Right now, the college entrance exams are changing. There is also the AO entrance exams where academics aren't important; when I first heard of it, I doubted my ears."
"Well, I guess."
"The variations of news, the expansion of the service industry, the advancements of robotics. In any case, current society doesn't need any book smarts. Those who study hard would only give once they're brought into the black hearted enterprises and had labor squeezed out from them. What the modern society needs now is interactive ability. The human power, to put it simply. This is all that's needed. This isn't my own idea, but the ambition of society.”
Principal Fujimoto sighed, and at the same time, he smiled.
"Just working hard, just being serious isn't going to be enough in this society. This is a terrifying era. The ones criticizing this test are all fools who don't know anything. 'Opposing the valuation of human personality', 'wanting a more fun school life'. It's true that will be easier. Just let the students take exams, focus on entering the top schools, and watch them be shoved into the ravines in this society where they're unable to rely on their academics alone. After that, see the suicide statistics amongst the graduates and the new meat in the professions, and have a nice tea time? Such a wonderful education system."
Speaking till this point, he cackled, and had a sip of coffee. It was black, no sugar nor milk added.
Seemingly making up this sudden pause, I asked, "So you started this Human Power Test?"
"My student committed suicide." he answered.
This couldn't be deemed as an answer to the question. It seemed he understood this too, and he said,
"15 years ago, when I was still the homeroom teacher, I was very close to a female student. When she graduated, she was often unsuccessful in seeking employment, and due to depression, jumped off a building."
"My wish...is to create a world where someone like her doesn't have to die. No matter the price."
For the first time, Principal's Fujimoto's stoic face during work collapsed, and his face showed a vague smile of reminiscing the past, and regret.
Like me, it seemed this man bored the death of a certain person. However, the hollow expression in his eyes seemed to have seen something I shouldn't have, and I felt a chill up my spine.
I inadvertently stopped the pen in my hand. Principal Fujimoto let out a long sigh, and when he recovered, he regained his usual face, continuing on,
"But speaking of modern society, even without some Human Power Test or something, Middle School students too would segregate amongst themselves. After all, in this modern era, grades aren't absolute. Without an absolute benchmark, the students can only appraise each other. I merely turned them into values."
I was curious as to the female student the principal just mentioned, but the conversation was soon redirected to the Test itself.
"So after they're turned into values...you let them compete?"
"It's different from competition. Simply, showing the values would prompt something to change. With this method, I hope students can become more useful to society. This is a real wish of an educator."
Principal Fujimoto stopped talking for a moment. During this time, I immediately recorded the content before into a notebook I prepared beforehand. While I was furiously writing, he asked me, "Having heard so much, you must be tired, I suppose?" I could only answer, "To be honest, I am." Having so much information given to me verbally, my brain was simply unable to process it completely.
I finished my coffee.
"Another cup?" The principal asked.
"Please. More sugar please."
Principal Fujimoto took a second cup of coffee for me, and again, I asked,
"And so? How did the students appraise? Their actual voices."
"Well, there are a lot of appraisals, as expected. Some felt that dealing with human relationships was too easy, and many felt feeble as a result."
"Did the interactive ability improve as you hoped?"
"I couldn't summarize everything. However, a group of enterprises had a high opinion of the tests. They said that if they were to seek a job, they would prefer to take the best in the Human Power Test as compared to the top in academics. Good decisions. This should continue to spread on--"
Pausing at this point, the principal said.
"--Well, that should be all. What you want to investigate is your little brother, I suppose? This Test is simply the background to the incident."
"The school can't say anything about your actions. We will respect the rights of the victim's family to know the truth. Even so, I do hope that you avoid touching the wounds of the other students. We do have an obligation to protect the students after all.."
"Of course, I will be careful."
"Is there anything else?"
There's one more.
I hesitated slightly. However, I put the ball point pen on the table, and lifted my head.
"Masaya, and that Taku Sugawara, what were their rankings for this Test?" I asked.
Even Principal Fujimoto showed utter disgust at this question. He probably didn't want to reveal a student's secret to the public. After considering, and making me promise not to reveal it to the public, he told me,
"At the end of the semester, amongst the 381 people in the second year, Masaya Kishitani was ranked 4th. His friends, the trio who were bullied, Shunsuke Ninomiya, Kouji Watabe, and Takayoshi Komuro too had high points. They were all very popular amongst their classmates."
"However, Sugawara was ranked 369th. He was someone nobody liked, yet he bullied 4 popular people."
Finally, Principal Fujimoto said a cryptic line to me,
"Sugawara once said, 'this is a revolution. The revolution has yet to end'."
Has yet to end?
I inquired the meaning of those words, but the principal merely shook his head.
"This is really suspicious! Principal Fujimoto reeked of suspicion, so much that all the perfume shops in the world could close down!"
Once I got home, the first thing I did was yell. I threw my bag aside, spun around, and removed the winter cloak, while making weird sounds like 'ahh', 'oohhh', ran up and down the second and first floor. Then, I ran to Masaya's room that had yet to be cleaned up, and fell onto the floor. I flailed my legs on the floor for two minutes, as though I was swimming, and finally managed to calm down.
For a long time, I wasn't good at doing such things, and no matter how many years it was, it hasn't changed. I definitely couldn't remain seated in front of that terrifying Principal Fujimoto.
"But I know now that the school isn't ordinary."
I lifted my face from the pillow, and repeated what I heard from the Principal.
"Let's put aside the issue of whether that Test is good or bad. I can't understand this. But! What I can understand is, that school has a unique environment."
"That is, in that kind of an educational environment, in Masaya's classroom, what happened..."
Of course, the obvious thing would be to ask the people directly.
However, I failed to get an interview with the friends bullied along with Masaya. I was rejected by their parents, and in their youths, when their emotions were delicate, with the paparazzi around, if I were to involve them anymore, they probably would break down."
"But this won't do. If I leave it be, I won't be able to solve anything."
I recalled Masaya's human relationships.
"Masaya's girlfriend...it's impossible. Given her current situation, I can't ask her..."
I once met her, she was a girl so cute even I would be jealous.
But at this point, it would be impossible for her to listen to me.
"Then, who shall I ask?"
I rolled around on the bed, and scanned Masaya's room. Then, a notebook computer entered my sights. Mother bought it for him. He got so arrogant even though he was in Middle School. I only got mine when I entered college.
"...I guess all his browsing history was investigated?"
All the SNS, emails, and the document folders should have been investigated. Even the deleted software data that could be recovered were investigated. But, there was nothing involving Taku Sugawara, according to the police.
Nevertheless, there might be some minor details that were carelessly leaked out.
I got up from the bed, and immediately switched on the computer. I then opened his web browser, and checked his internet history. However, there were some adult sites involved, all things an ordinary Middle School boy would look at.
"So they really went to investigate these..."
Masaya probably never thought that his internet history would be completely recovered, or his sex life would be revealed to the public. I'm really sorry. Your older sister will pretend to not have seen anything.
While enduring this guilt, I continued to search backwards, and then,
I saw those words
My body froze. Masaya's scared of eavesdropping? I checked the date. It was exactly 6 months ago. In other words, that was the time Sugawara was thought to have started bullying Masaya. Of course, it's impossible to prevent eavesdropping.
The Human Power Test.
What was born out of this school with such a strange ranking system?
Why did Masaya kill himself? Why was Masaya scared of eavesdropping.
Who exactly was Taku Sugawara?
I had to find all the answers.
To approach the truth of this matter, I decided to ask the 'secret weapon' to assist me.
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