Chapter 3 - Secret Weapon
It's time for the secret weapon to show up.
"Sayopon, Sayapon, Sayopon, Sayapon, Sayopon, Sayapon, Sayopon, Sayapon, Sayopon, Sayapon." So I kept calling at the phone, probably about dozens of times, yet she didn't reply. Guess I'll continue call a hundred times.
That was because I was left with no other choice. I called all the students in the class register, and requested them to give me any possible clubes, but they all rejected me, which left me in a rut.
However, I compiled all the events I knew of in chronological, and realized that with the given information, I couldn't deduce the truth of the matter.
1. The Principal started this weird Human Power Test.
2. In November, there was a bullying revealed on the internet that was started by Sugawara, and his four classmates, Masaya included, were bullied.
3. The school and the mothers of the victims decided to punish Sugawara, supervise him, and tried their best to isolate him from Masaya.
4. In December, Masaya was mentally ill, and killed himself.
How am I supposed to deduce? This lack of information nearly had me lashing out.
Most inscrutable however is between points 3 and 4. How did Taku Sugawara drive Masaya to despair? Nobody should be able to tell Sugawara off if this isn't cleared up.
Left with a derth of options, I decided to ask the Secret Weapon Sayo, often known as 'Sayopon' despite being unable to contact her. Sayo and I went to different collegs, but we're childhood friends, and from elementary school, to middle school to high school, she often helped me out, since I wasn't good at studies.
"Shut up already! Stop leaving messages for me like they're curses, you idiot!"
After muttering Sayopon for a hundred times or so, she finally picked up. It's that usual coarse voice.
And why have you been calling me 'Sayopon' every time you called me?"
"Sayopon, listen, Sayopon."
"Are you ignoring me now?"
"You know about what happened to my brother, right? I'm currently investigating that thing now..."
After that, I told everything I learned from the paparazzi and my parents to Sayo. I just told her everything without sorting out my intel, and the more I said, the more I got confused, "I see." but Sayo said that once she heard everything from me.
"Well, I've been watching the news, so I have a rough idea of what's going on."
"I want to hear out what you think, Sayopon."
I said, but there was no voice from the receiver. It seems she's frustrated too, and soon, there was a heavy sigh,
"This is just a view from a normal outsider." Sayo added as a premise, <strong>"But logically, Masaya and the others shouldn't have been bullied by Sugawara, right?"
"...What do you mean?" I asked, feeling all confused.
"Eh, don't get angry with me. I just feel that someone like Masaya can't possibly be scared of a mere middle school kid. I'm guessing that Sugawara said the controversial line "Bullying is an invention" to pull attention to himself. The mastermind should be someone else, right?"
"Mastermind...there's such a possibility. But, there's something obvious weird here."
I didn't think it was a bad theory, but I have a doubt.
"Assuming that there's a mastermind, why did Masaya only mention Sugawara in his will?"
Right, and that's where things gets tricky. Assuming that Masaya never saw through the possibility of a mastermind, this boy, the representative called Taku Sugawara had been bullying them 'alone'. Also, this middle school kid was supervised heavily during the month before Masaya killed himself.
I was at a dead end, and sighed. Sayo too seemed to be the same, and she let out a bear-like grumble.
"Ah, I don't understand. Not at all. Hey, besides Masaya, the other three who were bullied did testify to the school, right? What did they say?"
"They said that they were bullied by Taku Sugawara, but weren't sure about what happened after the bullying, that's all. They seemed to be scared of something, and said that they could only reveal this."
"I guess we can only hear from the other students involved. I wonder if anyone's willing to tell me the relationship between Taku Sugawara and Masaya."
Sayo paused for a moment, and silent down. Looks like she's in deep thought. There are moments where she would suddenly go quiet and retreat into her own world. I couldn't hear anyone else's voice, so I could only spend the time tapping the cover of my smartphone.
After some moments, "Alright!" There was a determined voice from the other end of the phone.
"Sanae, let me assist you in investigating this."
I could hear Sayo's breathing from the other end.
"I played with Masaya a few times myself. I can't just let it end like this."
"Ohh, what's the matter? I was about to ask you for help anyway."
"Eh...I do have some thoughts on this matter myself, and, it just feels that..." Sayo seemed hesitant to continue talking, and said, "Most importantly, I'm worried about you."
Given her usual feisty personality, these words were overly tender from my childhood friend, and it surprised me.
"...Sorry to worry you."
"...I am worried. How can I not, when my childhood friend's younger brother died? You're not forcing any smiles now, right?"
"Hm, a little."
"Don't force yourself. Anything you're unhappy about, tell me. You looked gloomy from your SNS tweets since last year. Hey, I heard you broke up. "
"Oh...thanks. But it's fine now. What's more important is about Masaya."
"I see...then I'll get a little serious."
I could imagine Sayo showing a fearless smile on the other end of the phone.
Right, I'm glad to have a friend who knows me so well. At the same time, I got a powerful helper.
I felt some warmth rising in my heart, and after thanking her, I hung up.
Since the day Sayo decided to help me, two days pass, and again, she called me,
“As expected, calling the parents will only get me rejected. However, it seems some kids are willing to say something.”
Sayo started talking without greeting me “Yo.”. However, what she’s talking about was what I was most hopeful about.
“Eh? That means?”
“Going smoothly. We’ll be meeting at the station after class today. Will you be going?”
“Of course! As expected of my secret weapon.”
I asked Sayo the details, and it seemed the student from Kuzegawa Second Middle School was the friend of her friend’s brother, Masaya’s classmate. I never expected that she could just get someone appropriate to ask. As expected, she had the social connections I never had.
“I never thought he would agree. If it was me, he would have been shocked and rejected me once I admit that I’m Masaya’s older sister…”
“Seriously, you’re way too honest here…got to watch your tongue there.” Sayo noted in surprise, “But we can ask him without any other adults around. Maybe the students in the class might know something.”
“Hm, so instead of a bullying that’s a complete mystery…”
“Leaving it to you. It’s your job to figure out the truth.”
I nodded, thanked her again, and hung up the phone.
I brewed some coffee, and walked towards the living, intending to sort out what I’m going to ask next. At this point, I’ve moved back from my apartment to my old house. There’s basically no lessons in the second semester of college junior year, and it’s better not to live far away from Kuzegawa Second Middle School if I want to investigate on Masaya.
So I thought as I tried to remember where the coffee beans at home where, and went downstairs. I found mom seated in the living room. She had her long hair combed behind her head, facing the computer, frantically typing something.
“Mom, what are you doing?”
I asked, and mom lifted her head, showing a fatigued smile.
“It’s a meeting on how to improve the school’s education, but the name’s undecided. We need to get Kuzegawa Second Middle School to work hard, so that sacrifices like Masaya won’t happen again. To do that, you know that I have to show up.”
It’s true that the mother of student who killed himself will be more than convincing enough. Mom’s intending to change this school, not even digging her heels into the fact that Masaya’s gone. She’s typing with much unfamiliarity. I can tell from her sidelong face that she’s a lot more aged than when Masaya died.
“We have to punish Taku Sugawara severely. Judgement of the devil is needed.”
She was muttering furious as she tapped at her words.
“Masaya’s definitely killed by him. However, my battle with the devil is not over yet. I’m definitely not going to forgive you. I’m definitely going to rip you apart, drive you to despair, kill you, and mangle you.”
Such words did not seem to come from my mom, and I was a little terrified.
This caused me to recall Taku Sugawara’s words,
“The revolution has yet to end.”
Has this incident ended already? Or is it just beginning?
I had a bad feeling about this.
The person Sayo introduced me to was called Kouta Katou.
The first impression of him was that he’s a beansprout. It’s the first time I’ve ever met such a person with a befitting nickname, and I really wanted to change the location from a café to a beef bowl rice shop. No, got to buck up! He has long, slender limbs, a face drained of blood, mouth half opened, and uneven glasses. No matter how I looked at him, he’s the Beansprout.
I brought him to an old looking café with lots of renovation. It’s a place that sells six hundred Yen for a cup of coffee. Inside the shop, we sat at a dim place where some light could shine into.
He ordered some hot lemonade, and I ordered hot coffee. Once our drinks were served, I ended the chat, and started asking,
“First, anything goes, but do you mind giving me your impression of those to? What are the impressions Kishitani and Sugawara gives you, Kadou?”
First, I started off with this. “Yes.” So Katou whispered.
I would first start asking from the easy one. I had a vague impression of Taku Sugawara’s horrendous personality, but I wanted to affirm this for myself. Also, I didn’t know how Masaya’s like at school.
“Masa, ahh, that’ Masaya Kishitani’s nickname. To put it simply, that guy’s very popular. If there’s any activity, he’ll definitely be the one organizing, and his grades are a notch above us. Everyone really look up to that guy. Ahh, of course, I really respect him too. I never thought that he would be a bullying victim. It just felt like he had nothing to do with the bullying, on either side.”
“Well, as to be expected.”
This was as I thought. It’s no different from when Masaya was at home.
“Then what about Sugawara?”
Katou frowned, and slowly said,
“Hm, no, Sugawara…to put it. He’s, not really a gloomy guy, but probably not a cheery one. I don’t think he’s really hated, but in any case, he just doesn’t have any presence. He’s probably the least impressive guy in the class.”
It’s unexpected. From what I heard from the news and school, he should be a Middle School student who’s more arrogant, eccentric. I reached my hand out, cutting off Katou’s words, and said,
“What do you mean unimpressive? Is he different from the media’s portrayal of him being the demon?”
“Yeah, he’s really scary. We don’t know what he’s thinking. But he’s not some delinquent of a student. He’s dumb, bad at sports. He’s the type who likes to read manga and novels alone during noon break.”
“Yeah, and also, he just seem uninterested in the people around him. Or I should say, he never had any interest in others. Even if we did talk to him, we would just get ignored. That’s different from anthrophobia. He might really be the devil. Just gives a bad feeling.”
After that, Katou emphasized on Taku Sugawara “He’s really disgusting”, and quenched his throat with the hot lemonade.
During that time, I kept looking at the notebook, and recalled the difference in the Sugawara depicted. Taku Sugawara should be the devil, “You alone won’t be enough to stop the revolution.” But was he really such an unimpressive person? What’s with this difference?
I was really curious about that. But I left the deductions for later—it’s time for the actual topic.
I merely took a few notes, and took a deep breath, inhaling oxygen into my brain, and decided to sort out the truth. I concentrated, and held my ball-point pen, saying, “Then…mind telling me more about the bullying?”
But compared to how enthusiastic I was, Katou’s answer was very vague. In an apologetic manner, he answered,
“…I’m not very sure on the bulying at all.”
Katou lowered his head, and muttered.
“What happened? Are you saying that nothing seemed to have happened ever since Sugawara hit someone with a water bottle?”
I tried asking with a more specific question.
But again, he shook his head,
“No, that’s not it. During that time too, nobody knows everything from beginning to end. Nobody actually saw the bullying, whether it’s before the bullying actually happened, or after.”
The notebook in my hands nearly fell off, but I barely managed to grab it in time. I leaned my body over the table, staring at Katou’s face.
And then, I blankly asked,
“What do you mean? The content of the online posts includes forcing people to eat dead bees, needles stabbed into the back…”
“I said that nobody saw all these. Nobody realized that anyone was bullied, let alone saw it. Before those contents were uploaded onto the internet, no, even after they were uploaded onto the internet, nobody realized it. Nobody in class figured out that there was bullying until Sugawara beat Kishitani up with a water bottle.”
What’s going on?
Even I got confused.
One guy bullied four popular people without anyone noticing? Is that even possible?
It’s really ridiculous. The students would have been worried the moment the popular ones showed even a grimace, and there should be a lot of people they could discuss this with. It’s impossible.
It was vexing. I took two sugar blocks next to me, and dropped them into the coffee. It’ll become really sweet, but it’s fine since I have a sweet tooth. At the very least, I could get my mind clear.
After a sip of coffee, I asked Katou,
“…Was there really bullying?”
“There are a few signs, so it’s possible. Masa’s gym clothes were cut up before…”
“Masa, Shun, Taka and Kouji all insisted that they were bullied, and Sugawara admitted it…given how the victims and bully admitted, I’m thinking that there was.”
At this point, all I could do was sigh.
I thought I could get closer to the truth, but I failed completely. Of course, it’s not Katou’s fault, but it was so deflating.
With that, I couldn’t figure out any clues in the victim’s house, the email, and the cellphone. It’s no wonder the police and school had given up on that. There’s no definitive proof that Taku Sugawara drove Masaya to despair.
Since Katou didn’t know anything about the bullying, there’s nothing more to ask about this. All I had to do was to affirm what happened. It’s like I’m cleaning up after the operation failed.
“Then, well, please tell me what happened after the hurting, after Sugawara beat up Kishitani with the water bottle. It’s said that Sugaara was isolated.”
“Well Sugawara was already alone. Ah, but it seemed he got bullied by some girls. He enraged Masa’s fans, or friends. But anyway, there’s something more painful there, right? The TV stations will air the bad parts of the school…”
“Hm? Bad parts?”
And then, Katou continued on, hesitant to speak,
“For an entire week, Sugawara was forced to kneel, and then paraded around the school.”
“Huh?” Again, I could only eke out these words, and remain rooted there. I didn’t know anything about this at all. It was an unexpected message. No, I should have heard about this matter, more or less.
It’s said that the school and guardians punished Sugawara severely.
But nobody told me it was so severe, so unjust.
“I heard these were all decided by the school, by the guardians. For an entire week, he was forced to kneel during noon break, from the classrooms of the third year to the first year. It’s sad, isn’t it? They paraded the bully around the entire school in front of the students.”
“Eh, but why did they do this? Ah, just tell me what you know, Katou.”
“They’re probably scared of Sugawara, I guess? He bullied four of our classmates without anyone noticing, anyone knowing. As long as all the students remembered how Sugawara looked like, everyone can watch over him.”
It sounded logically. I could get having the students watch over Sugawara, watch the bullying the teachers couldn’t tell. Was there a need to parade him in front of everyone though?
Was this reasonable? This was way too—
“Please tell me what happened after that.” I suppressed my feelings, and asked, “So, from the kneeling to Masaya, ah, please tell me what happened until Kishitani killed himself?”
“Nothing special, all I know is that Masa’s been acting strange. It felt like he was just hiding from others. He didn’t seem to smile much.”
“Was it because Sugawara did something?”
“I told you nobody else knew…everyone’s all Masa’s friend, Sugawara’s enemy. But nobody knew why Masa broke down. The only explanation is that Sugawara did something…”
Broke down. I didn’t like this description at all, but I wasn’t so impatient as to throw a fit here. I continued to ask,
“What did the people who saw it do?”
“Of course they got worried. The red wounds really appeared to be hurting. Everyone bullied Sugawara, and did their best to isolate Masaya and the others from Sugawara. The whole school was protecting Masaya, protesting against Sugawara.”
“Everyone…nobody stood on Sugawara’s side?”
“A-actually, it’s a little excessive to say that. There must be some who would pity that Sugawara.”
Pity? To Sugawara?
I tried asking, “Why?” my apologies, my tone’s a little rigid. I had a feeling there would be something big.
Katou seemed to have difficulty saying something as he lowered his head,
“Well, those seniors and juniors who didn’t know anything might think this way. The impact of Sugawara’s kneeling was way too shocking, so it’s not weird to have some misunderstand. Also, there are already some outside our class who hates Masa.”
“Hm, why hate Kishitani?”
“Masa’s mom is really famous in the school. She’s one of those monster parents who show up on the news. She often complained about the content of the lessons, how the exams are graded. Those that know about these are really disgusted by it.”
I never heard of this before!
“…Is Kishitani’s mother such a cruel person?” I did my best to suppress my feelings as I continued. This had been my feeling for much of today’s hearing.
“Hm, that’s because she’s the vice president of the PTA, you know? Masa himself seem to really hate her. She would grumble whenever the teacher criticized Masa for forgetting to bring something, or even a graze. That graze could have been inflicted at home, but it’s blamed on the sports department. Masa will hide some things from her, but if she found some excuse, she’ll come running to complain to the school.”
And so, I heard such terrifying news.
My throat felt a little parched.
At the very least, when I was still in high school, mom was still normal. During the three years when I entered college and left him, mom’s personality changed after drastically.
My mind recalled mom grumbling at Taku Sugawara as she sat before a table a few hours ago.
What happened? Was the key involving my mom?
I had to ask her. To go to mom. She’s really involved in this incident; no way was she just someone normally involved. And more importantly, I had my own issues too.
I thanked Katou, and left the seat.
Then, he finally asked something,
“Erm, did I say something weird? You seemed strange midway through this.”
“It’s fine, you don’t have to mind about this. This big sister here acts weird once every five minutes.”
“Ah, I see…then can I ask another question? You’re investigating this incident, right? You should know about Masaya’s girlfriend. Did you hear anything from the news?”
I slung my bag over my shoulder, and said,
“No, all I know is that three days before Kishitani killed himself, she fell from the stairs…and hasn’t regained consciousness, right?”
“Yes…I too, only know this. Some said the culprit’s Taku Sugawara, but back then, he was being told off in the staff room…”
Right, I let this go as I didn’t know what had this got to do with Masaya, but there were a lot of mysteries.
Masaya’s lover rolled down the stairs three days before Masaya killed himself, and she lost consciousness.
This can be said to be one of the reasons why Masaya killed himself, but it may have been just an accident. In any case, my biggest priority would be to investigate Masaya.
I thanked him again, and left.
I didn’t head back home directly,
For I had yet to clear out my thoughts.
I didn’t get any clues on the bullying, but unexpectedly, I obtained a really important intel. Sugawara was forced to kneel in front of everyone as punishment, and the one who became the monster parent, Masaya and my mom.
So to sort out these messages, I went to the fashion shop I often visited in high school, the bread shop I really liked, the shopping area before the station, wandering aimlessly. It just felt that for every step I took, the venue changed, and I was wondering if I was even walking straight. Eh? Which side’s south?
What got me back to normal was a phone call from Sayo.
The moment I heard her voice, I started telling her everything I heard from Katou. Sayo listened listening, “Is it really alright?” and with a calm voice, she asked me.
“It’s fine. I feel a lot better after saying it out.” I answered. “Recovery ended. Time to begin.”
“If you can do such a stupid thing, I guess you’re fine.”
“I might not be suited to be a detective. My head’s in a complete mess.”
“We already know that centuries ago. Next, about your mom.”
Sayo calmly raised her opinion on what I said,
But I couldn’t bring myself to agree immediately.
“Sanae, what is it?”
“…No, it’s nothing. Hm, mom might have hidden something from me. There’s no way she would have done something so weird like parade him around as punishment.”
Rooted to the spot, I nodded firmly.
There’s a lot of mysteries.
—Nobody realized the bullying until the hurting.
—After the hurting, Sugawara gained attention as he knelt down in front of the entire school.
—And also, Masaya who killed himself.
Even so, I was slowly approaching the truth of the matter.
As long as I could unravel the mystery, it’ll be fine. I could start investigating from the contact I had with Katou. Since mom’s really involved in this, I could start here. I’ll get close to the crux from many ways.
“It’s just a bit, but the truth of this matter is going to float. You need to keep working harder, Sanae.”
Sayo’s encouragement came from the other end of the phone.
To be honest, I was really trying my best to be energetic, but there was some uneasiness. Whenever I approached the truth of this matter, my heart would churn out a feeling I should not have. I could only try my best not to mind about it.
Regarding this matter, for every little bit I knew.
I would know more about Masaya.
As this useless older sister, I would—
“Right, I’ll do my best.” But even so, I too made up my mind, “It’s for Masaya’s sake.”
If I kept thinking about the uneasy part, there would be no end to it.”
“Hm, nice attitude.” My childhood friend chuckled, “But before that.”
Sayo thought of something, and said,
“Sanae, send me the pictures. The pictures.”
“Masaya, his bullied friends, and Taku Sugawara. There should be a group photo or something, right? I do want to have a look. If we’re talking about bullying, the appearance is also an important factor, right?”
“Ahh, right. Hold on. I’m hanging up.”
I sent the photo to Sayo. The photo of Masaya and friends laughing together, and in a corner of a group photo, Masaya looking bored as he looked at the lens. The contrast between them was accidental, but I sent the two photos over.
Sayo quickly responded.
I picked up the phone, and she spoke with a tone far more serious as compared to usual.
“I met him before.”
Of course, I asked who she met. Sayo immediately answered,
“I met Taku Sugawara before…”
In other words, she was really involved in this matter.
Involved in the revolutionary war of Taku Sugawara.
It was the second day when the mutilated cat carcass was sent to our house
And the message ‘the revolution shall continue was attached.
As expected, that thing started.
Slowly, but surely.
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