Chapter 7 - The Final Puzzle Piece
It’s an obvious action, nothing to be proud of, but I summoned my courage and replied to Kotomi Ishikawa.
Of course, I was scared of knowing the truth, and terrified of the assailant. Despite this, there was a reason why I couldn’t give up. It’s pessimistic, but I decided to begin investigations.
She was the first girlfriend Masaya made in life.
What did she see in that classroom? Why did she fall from the stairs?
Kotomi and I agreed on a time to meet.
I contacted her through SNS, but it seemed she really wanted to meet me, so we arranged a time for me to meet her at the hospital, and I visited her at a ward.
Her ward room’s a nicely maintained single bed room. She was seated on the bed, and the whole room was complete white, like white pain; there was a suffocating feeling, but it emphasized more on her beauty. Strangle, the middle-length black hair and tense face was the same as before.
However, she did not have proper nutrition, probably as she had passed out for days, and lacked lots of flesh, giving a holy presence as a result. The youthful vibrance befitting her age when I met her had vanished, and she seemed exceptionally mature.
She sat on the sofa, holding a large Narcissus flower.
I entered the room, and she looked at me, smiling peacefully,
Her tone is filled with pity and merciful love. It’s so unlike a 14-year-old.
Surely she had known that Masaya killed himself.
“To be honest…” she pointed at the chair, probably intending for me to sit, “I already recovered a long time back, but I wasn’t allowed visitors. Isn’t that too much, you think?”
“…You took a hard hit though, so of course, isn’t it? There are still some parts unclear about the brain in medical research.”
After hearing my answer, she answered, “I see, it’s a blind spot!” She chuckled, and looked at her hands with a serious look,
“So…I had enough time, to sit here, to think of what happened till this point.”
She was holding something in her hands. On a closer look, I found that it was a cellphone.
With an adorable look, she stroked her cellphone, saying,
“About the class, Masaya, Sugawara, the Human Power Test, and myself. Like an idiot, I was just thinking about friends. I was wondering, what would I do when I got shunned from others? If I can’t catch up in topics or grades, and if I get bullied, what do I do? It’s no wonder that Sugawara mocked me, “What you see is just others.”.”
“Are you familiar with him?”
“No, but before the incident happened, we talked a few times, rather in-depth. So I decided to follow Sugawara’s words, ignore others, and take some time to think. After thinking about it for a while, I realized that Sugawara’s caring for me through his own way.”
“What else did you think of?”
“Like why Masaya pushed me down the stairs.”
She put the cellphone to her chest.
“I’ll tell you the truth, who actually killed Masaya. The sins Ninomiya, Watabe, Komuro and I did.”
There’s no doubt Kotomi’s one of the central group in the class; she’s third in the Human Power Test, and her popularity’s obvious (to note, of the 35 in the class, Masaya’s first, while Taku Sugawara was 34th). Her cheerful personality was such that it wouldn’t be discomforting to be with her; whenever anyone was with her, there wouldn’t be a dampener.
However, she expressed that a year ago, she was harassed by some girls. She accidentally showed her friends the Test Card of the Human power Test, and due to her high rank, she was envied. Before the malice showed from the others, a certain popular person said something that easily solved this matter.
That popular person was Masaya. Both of them got on good terms, and two months later, they started dating.
I once asked about Masaya’s girlfriend, and he looked really disgusted, but he did introduce his girlfriend to me. “She’s good at easing the mood, so I guess she gets along with you well. She looks silly, but she really cares for others.”
However, I could personally sense that the way she treated others was due to her past fear.
“So when Masaya started hiding things from me, I was really hurt. I was scared of being abandoned by Masaya, that I had to face the naked hatred myself.”
Slowly, she said,
“I didn’t know what to do, and I vented my frustrations on the dolphin doll Masaya gave me…I was an idiot. It’s the precious doll Masay gave me for our first date…but it really shocked me. Masaya, no, he, and everyone else, including Ninomiya, Watabe and Komuro, all of them are hiding something from me, isolating me.”
“When was that?”
“About two weeks before Sugawara triggered that incident.”
“Do you know know what they hid from you?”
“Yes.” She nodded back at my question,
“I think Ninomiya, Watabe and Komuro were bullying Masaya. To be exact, it’s Masaya and Sugawara.”
She slowly elaborated, and then, suddenly, she hastened her words,
“They bullied them behind everyone else’s back, without anyone realizing. It’s more convincing that Sugawara alone bullying four people, at least. Masaya’s gym clothes were definitely slashed thanks to them. I knew something was amiss, so they planned something.”
“…They had Sugawara attack Masaya, and let Sugawara be the scapegoat.”
“Yes, you’re right.”
She affirmed my words, and hastened her words as she said,
“The reveal on the internet was faked by them. After that incident, Sugawara and Masaya lost contact. Masaya started to act strange. Was it because those three’s bullying got out of hand? Was it because Sugawara, who was bullied, was isolated from everyone?”
“Good friends…” I muttered,
“After Sugawara beat up masaya, I saw Masaya run over to Toguchi-sensei. Sensei didn’t have any enthusiasm, and only cared about himself, so surely he did ignore Masaya. But Masaya did ask others for help. He visited Sugawara once, keeping it a secret from his parent. I didn’t know what his objective was, but it’s enough to prove that he and Sugawara were once friends.”
“Hey, in that case, what sin did you commit?”
I asked, and she closed her eyes, stating the truth in pain,
“After Sugawara’s incident, I bullied him along with the rest of the class…everyone threw his pencil case, and badmouthed him before him. They added rubber scraps to his meal, and hid the homework he was going to submit.”
With tears in her eyes, Kotomi hugged at the white blanket, shivering,
She continued to confess her sin,
“Back then, I didn’t know what to do…I didn’t know what to believe. For Masaya, no, Sugawara may be angry if he hears this. My mind’s just thinking of how to improve my ranking in the Human Power Test, how not to let it slide, so I punished Sugawara, to him, who used to be Masaya’s friend—”
“And that’s why Masaya pushed me down the stairs, maybe because I bullied the one person who could have been Masaya’s emotional support.”
Finally, she cried and exclaimed,
“That’s why I feel that I caused Masaya’s death. I never realized the truth to this, and drove him to despair. Ninomiya, Watabe and Komuro all bullied Masaya, and I bullied Masaya’s friend—that’s the truth to this.”
In my mind, I reflected upon her anguished confession.
Suddenly, I had a thought in my mind. Right, a thought. No matter how contradicting it was, how shocking it was, there was something unsurprising yet unimportant.
I looked at her,
And then, I said, “You have the courage to admit your sin.”
She wiped her tears, feeling confused,
“Eh? What do you mean?”
“Ah, no, I just feel that you’re different from others. There’s the principal who started this strange education system, Masaya’s mom who’s next to me, and the classmates who should have noticed the bullying; nobody wants to admit their responsibility in the matter. Eh, whether they do have responsibility, I’m not sure.”
All of them pushed the responsibility to Taku Sugawara and stated their innocence by saying “I don’t know.” But she didn’t.
With a firm will, she opened her eyes, and held my hand firmly, stating the truth.
She didn’t try to be a goody-goody before me, but instead, she analysed the situation in an abnormally calm manner.
Upon hearing my words, Kotomi chuckled,
“Someone told me ‘not to run away’.” It’s the first time she showed such a kind smile, “Don’t care about how others look at you and forget the real important thing. So I decided not to run away. I can’t run away from reality anymore; I won’t run away from the fact that I doomed Masaya.”
“Who said that to you?”
“What do you mean?”
Kotomi seemed bemused, and smiled,
With a blushing face, she said,
“Surely Sugawara wanted to tell me something important.”
She again held her cellphone, and tossed it to the ceiling. It spun in the air, and landed on the bed.
I imagined Sugawara in my mind. The unpopular guy the principal talked off, the devil child mom said, the unimpressive student his classmates said, and the sage-like existence she said. Which one was it? Which one was the real him?”
“Don’t run away.” Sugawara once said this.
Ah, that was the case. I couldn’t just run away. Even this girl who’s younger than me by seven years figured out the cruel truth through her own hypothesis, that “I’m the killer.”
“Hey, Kotomi, let me figure out the truth first. What you just mentioned, like the teacher being unenthusiastic, Masaya discussing it with the teacher, after the incident, Masaya visited Sugawara at his house, that after the incident, you all bullied Sugawara. It was Masaya who pushed you down the stairs. That’s a fact, right?”
I lined up the facts I had known for the first time, got Kotomi’s affirmation, and jotted it down in my notebook, comparing it to what I heard.
“E-erm.” With a worried look, Kotomi asked, “Was my deduction wrong somewhere?”
“I don’t know. But I’ve decided not to run away, and keep fighting on. Let me continue investigating this a bit; there’s something very suspicious in your deduction, Kotomi, about how ‘Masaya was bullied’. Hey, how is it possible to control that genius? I’m not boasting, but Masaya’s capable of fighting and studying. It’s a little difficult for others not to realize.”
“That is a blind spot…let me think.”
“Let’s think of this another way, maybe he was threatened. There was a ‘prevent eavesdropping’ search record in Masaya’s computer, so he’s definitely scared of something. Do you have a clue?”
“Eh, I remember he has something he’s hiding from me, but I’m not sure what it is…”
Saying that, Kotomi lowered her head,
“Sorry, I don’t have definite proof. I can’t be a famous detective.”
“No, I didn’t really have any hopes for the evidence…this is different from a murder or theft, there won’t normally be any traces or murder weapon left behind.”
“I see, that makes sense. This is a blind spot.”
“Is that your mantra?”
I chuckled. What Kotomi said left me curious,
‘Blind Spot’? A possibility of being excluded?
Th-there’s not just one? Blind spots nobody thought of?
I flipped through my notebook before Kotomi, and checked through all the intel I got.
Even if there wasn’t any conclusive evidence, it was fine. I could deduce the current situation through imagination and logic.
Grades, popular person, Taku Sugawara’s family conditions, prevent eavesdropping, unenthusiastic class teacher, no signs of bullying, the PTA vice president infamous for being a monster parent, friendship—
I started to slowly understand the environment Taku Sugawara and Masaya were in.
All kinds of elaborate plot became the truth, floating to the surface.
“—!” I shrieked.
It was a bone-chilling truth, the demonic truth.
I didn’t think it was a coincidence. It was a completely perfect dominion.
“Sanae, your phone’s ringing.”
Right when I had a hypothesis,
I could hear a familiar ringtone from my bag. I never noticed it at all.
“You can hear it here. They allow people to use phones here.”
I was grateful to Kotomi for telling me this, and picked up my phone. It’s from Sayo,
“You got a park near your house, right? Hurry there.”
With a stern tone, she said,
“Taku Sugawara’s there now.”
“I’ll be right there.” I answered, and hung up.
Next to me, Kotomi showed a curious look, so I said to her, “I’m going to meet Sugawara.”
She probably realized the seriousness from the words, and nodded towards me, pointing at the Narcissus by her bedside. The white flower was blooming brightly, and the ward room had a faint fragrance lingering.
“It’s from Sugawara. He asked the nurse to give it to me.”
And then, she held my hand,
“Please unravel all the mysteries. I too want to know why Masaya died. Why did Sugawara beat up Masaya. Once everything is clear, please guide them, let Masaya die in peace, and Sugawara be happy.”
I didn’t need her to remind me that.
I held her hand back, and left the ward room.
There was a mistake in Kotomi’s deduction.
So, it’s time to clear up everything.
I had to meet Masaya’s killer, and personally talk to him.
Since the revolution is yet to end, I’ll end it right there.
Taku Sugawara just so happened to be seated at the bench Masaya and I used to sit at.
It’s a spacious park with a large grassy place, and during the holidays, kids will come to play baseball. There’s a large playground at the higher-up place, and at the back, I could see a wilting Sakura tree. There’s rubbish thrown into the lake, and the plastic bottles floated on the surface like a boat.
The scenery before me was completely dyed orange.
It’s a really pretty evening hue.
The orange light tenderly wrapped around me, engulfing this world. It’s the park I’m so familiar with, but it just didn’t seem to fit in.
For Taku Sugawara appeared right before my eyes.
How could I describe my first impression of Taku Sugawara?
It’s different from the impression others had described.
Of course, as they had said, his appearance wasn’t impressive, and he’s not tall. He seemed weak, a lot gloomier than I thought. He had the appearance of an ordinary middle school student; this simple describe aptly fit him.
But even so, there was some pressure from him, unlike his appearance. He came here with some determination, or maybe it was because I was feeling tense.
At the very least, I couldn’t help but gasp.
Those were the feelings I had when I met Taku Sugawara.
Taku Sugawara was seated on the bench by the park, looking at me,
“You’re Masaya’s older sister, right? Both of you look alike.”
He said before I could speak up.
“Yeah.” So I could only answer.
He averted his eyes from me, his upper body leaning forward as he started to say. His voice was a little deep; perhaps his voice was breaking,
“I don’t have anything else to say. I bullied him and drove him to suicide. Looks like you’re investigating the truth to this matter, but this is the truth. I do feel sorry to you, his older sister, but have another way to redeem myself, so that’s it for today, right?”
“But Sayo told me “You’re going to tell me everything”.”
“Sayo? Oh, the tall one? Sorry, I change my mind. There’s nothing much to say.”
“Tell me. I’m not going to run away from the truth.”
“Like I give a damn about you.”
He was arrogant, speaking with uppity. No wonder mom didn’t like him at all.
But it’s all an act. He didn’t sound like what his classmates said about him, and looking closely, he seemed really stiff. He’s just an ordinary middle school boy acting tough.
So, I said; to fish out the truth from him, I told him the answer I got,
“You were the one bullied, right? By Masaya Kishitani, Shunsuke Ninomiya, Kouji Watabe, and Takayoshi Komuro, the four of them.”
I linked all the clues together, and that was the only answer I got,
“And it wasn’t just bullying. It’s perfect. Four vs one, let’s not talk about that. Nobody else realized, there’s no records in the email, they were careful about not being eavesdropped, and your actions were controlled during that time. Even if you did try to report the bullying, your parents aren’t interested in their child, and the class teacher has no motivation. If the report succeeded, you’ll be facing the monster parent, the PTa vice president, and then the most popular in class, nobody else will stand on your side. You’re alone, so everything’s pointe to you. It’s a perfect layered planning…no, so perfect that it was basically calculated.
The strange force that did whatever it did from behind the back, the true identity would be—
“The devil was—Masaya Kishitani.”
“Tell me, how did you fight against the devil? What happened between you and Masaya?”
I stated my hypothesis, and for the first time, Sugawara’s expression showed a change. The condescending look vanished, and he looked up at me with shock.
His mouth moved twice, thrice, becoming an inaudible cry. He suddenly started covering his mouth, and coughed, shaking all over like a clock. He then fell from the bench, panting hard.
He finally smiled happily, “You’ve passed.” He said.
However, he never told me the significance of those words.
Once his breathing eased, he said,
“Please give me some time to buy some cocoa. I’ll tell you the rest later.”
There’s no doubt he had a smile on his face.
But something was amiss. That smile was way different from ‘an ordinary middle school boy’. That expression could only be described as ‘evil’.
And this was the final step.
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