Lot of plot in this chapter and no fanservice. New record, or something. Sorry for the wait. It's a bit later than I had planned; a certain other project took precedence partway through the month. If I'm super productive and manage to tear myself away from Pokemon, I may try to have next GakuPuri out by the first.
As always, let me know if there are any errors, in translation, grammar, formatting, or otherwise.
April 11 Yagokoro Police Station Special Forensics Division
The results of the autopsy concluded that Alex Brown’s cause of death was loss of blood due to a stab wound to the chest area. The murder weapon used was the survival knife belonging to Alex Brown himself.
Furthermore, inspection of the scene in the back alley where Alex Brown had died had found traces of a struggle against the person believed to be the murderer. However, there was none of the evidence necessary to specifically identify the criminal. The only thing we knew from the traces left behind was that the fight had taken no more than a moment.
He had murdered Alex Brown, a former legionnaire, all by himself. Moreover, he had easily overcome his opponent, a large man over two meters tall. That was the hard-to-swallow truth.
Just as I anticipated, the search of his apartment confirmed that the late Alex Brown had been Tajikarao. Upon accessing the Midnight Site from Alex Brown’s home computer, “Tajikarao” was displayed. In addition, rough drafts of posts Tajikarao had written on the Midnight Site were saved on the computer.
From what we could deduce from our interactions, Alex Brown did not seem to hold a favorable impression of us. He was closed-off and belligerent, and his furious eyes, which seemed to view every person in the world as an enemy, were burned into my memory.
However, hearing his circumstances left room for sympathy.
From a young age, Alex Brown had not been able to effectively communicate with the people around him, due to his eye-catching dark brown skin. As Alex Brown aged and his body grew larger, he resorted to violent means to resolve that friction. As a result, he had had countless run-ins with the police, creating a feeling of distrust towards them that continued until today.
He may have gone to France, his father’s native country, in search of a place to belong. However, in reality, there may not have been a place for Alex Brown in France either. That he was a member of the Foreign Legion, not the regular army, and that he returned once again to Japan, could not be entirely unrelated.
By chance, he had been born into the gap between two cultures, and unfortunately, it had ruined his life. I was saddened when I considered what could have been had he been born under normal circumstances. Even so, I wanted to tell him clearly.
“You are mistaken.”
It was common knowledge that the environment had a large influence on the development of one’s personality. However, there were many people who achieved remarkable growth even in an unfavorable environment. There were countless people deserving of respect. I could only conclude that the main cause lay within Alex Brown himself.
He should have fought without yielding to his environment. He should have struggled so as to make a place for himself. At the very least, it was not right to have taken the narrow-minded stance of actively denying others as a method of protecting himself.
For example, even if Alex Brown had been unable to do anything on his own, if he had had even one trustworthy person who could set him on the right path, I would not be feeling this regret.
Similarly, I thought fruitlessly that this sad incident may not have occurred if Kyouhei Hioka had also had such a person.
In truth, the night that Alex Brown passed away, a post went up on the “Midnight Site” that threw the Internet into an uproar.
“MY NAME IS – KAGU-TSUCHI. MY GRUDGE IS BORN FROM THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN CONDEMNED. TODAY I HAVE PASSED DOWN ‘CONDEMNATION’ UPON ‘TAJIKARAO’, OF THE EVIL GROUP THAT CALLS THEMSELVES TOGAKUSHI. OMOIKANE, SARUTAHIKO, FUTODAMA, YOU THREE WHO REMAIN, MY REVENGE SHALL CONTINUE AS PROCLAIMED UNTIL ALL FIVE HAVE BEEN CONSIGNED TO OBLIVION BY MY HANDS. LET US BEGIN THE COUNTDOWN TO YOUR LAST BREATHS. IN NO WAY WILL I FORGIVE YOU.”
He had declared his intent to kill and followed through with it. The mysterious “Kagu-tsuchi” was now a hot topic on the Internet. The backlash at Kagu-tsuchi over his actions was already approaching the level of a social movement. On the other hand, there was a similar amount of intense criticism directed at the Yagokoro police, who were letting the murderer Kagu-tsuchi do as he pleased.
Among the “Five Togakushi Judges”, two of them, Uzume and Tajikarao, had been murdered by Kyouhei Hioka’s hands. Though Osamu Haida, known as Omoikane, was being sheltered by the police, if they were unable to protect the remaining members, Sarutahiko and Futodama, their reputation would be ruined. There was the possibility that numerous top officers among the police would be fired.
I did not hold much interest in that bureaucratic aspect, but I felt that allowing a crime to successfully be committed right under my nose was shameful for me as a detective.
Sousei-san and I detected the past conversations at the place where Alex Brown’s corpse had been discovered, as we had done for Miyuki Midorikawa.
“You? Kill me? Ha! See the difference between my body and yours? You think you can win?”
Among the many things detected, that line was the most worrisome. I could recall Alex Brown’s behavior within the station corridor as he snorted at my small stature and dismissed me as a little fool. I surmised that these were his words upon seeing Kyouhei Hioka.
At 172 centimeters, Kyouhei Hioka was of average height for a man, but there was more than thirty centimeters’ difference between himself and Alex Brown, whose height surpassed two meters. From Alex Brown’s viewpoint, everyone except Sousei-san must have seemed like a child.
I postulated that Alex Brown, who fought on the same level as Sousei-san, had been so easily murdered because he had let down his guard around his opponent. Naturally, this much of the analysis I could deduce from the information available at the crime scene.
Before I realized it, three days’ idleness had passed without obtaining any useful information.
We repeated our appeals in the chatroom, but there was no response from the two remaining “Togakushi Five Judges”, Sarutahiko and Futodama.
Did they not notice the appeals themselves? Or were they watching and waiting? From the personality of Shirou Konno, known as Sarutohiko, was it correct to assume that he was watching and waiting?
He was such an exemplary student that he was chosen as student council president, but on the other hand, he was a coldhearted person who objectively judged others as a member of the “Five Togakushi Judges”. He was able to wear those two faces without those around him catching on. It was not as simple as Tajikarao’s case.
Taking that into account, my current reasoning was that Shirou Konno’s disappearance was not involved with the case, but rather because he sensed danger and chose to conceal himself of his own will.
However, concerning the other person, Futodama, it would have been preferable to receive a reply. According to Osamu Haida, known as Omoikane, Futodama was the type of person who was brimming with curiosity. Putting aside the question of whether or not he would cooperate with our proposal, I expected it would not have been strange for him to show himself in the chatroom, but I may have miscalculated.
Regarding the whereabouts of Kyouhei Hioka, the person of interest, Touko-san was playing a leading role in the investigation, but there was no particular progress.
Each day, wild speculation ran rampant on the Internet and mass communication concerning the illusory Kyouhei Hioka: perhaps he was disguising himself as a woman, perhaps he had had plastic surgery and was masquerading as a different person, perhaps he had an accomplice.
With no progress being made, a suffocating atmosphere began to permeate the station. The faces of the investigators were slowly becoming darker with fatigue.
It happened on April 11, as we drifted in that sea of helplessness. Something happened that should not have been allowed to happen.
Osamu Haida, called Omoikane – was murdered by someone.
Osamu Haida had been sheltered inside one room of the police dormitory. Of course, Osamu Haida’s whereabouts were generally kept secret and were treated as top-secret information among those associated with the police.
The first to discover the body was the dormitory caretaker. Incidentally, the caretaker had not known that Osamu Haida was Omoikane. It seemed she had been told that he was a new police officer.
As always, after eight AM on the eleventh, the caretaker made breakfast and waited for Osamu Haida, but no matter how long she waited, he did not come. When, worried, she went to his room, she discovered Osamu Haida, lying dead and bleeding on the bed. It seemed the door had been unlocked.
Immediately after it was deemed a crime scene, traces of an outside trespasser were found. The autopsy results confirmed that the cause of death was hemorrhagic shock. The murder weapon was a gun. Most likely it had had a silencer attached. He had been shot only once, but the carotid artery had been precisely hit through the back of the neck.
In addition, from the type of bullet, which had pierced through the bed and remained in the floor, we knew that the gun used had been a Sig Sauer P230. However, it seemed the rifling marks were not consistent with those found in Miyuki Midorikawa’s case.
The results of a full day’s investigation revealed that an unregistered gun had been stolen. In other words, Osamu Haida had been shot and killed by a stolen Sig Sauer P230.
How he had come to know of Osamu Haida’s whereabouts was a mystery; however, most were of the opinion that it was a crime that could only have been committed by a person with intimate knowledge of the workings of the police, and the complicated expressions of the investigators indicated the reality that we had once again been outwitted by Kyouhei Hioka.
Sousei-san and I used our Personas and searched the scene for past conversations, but we were unable to detect any conversations from the time of the murder. Most likely Osamu Haida had been shot with the gun as he slept. He may have slipped into eternal sleep, not knowing when he had died.
In the middle of that night, a post from Kagu-tsuchi went up on the Midnight Site.
“TWO REMAIN. MY FLAME OF RESENTMENT HAS NOT YET FADED.”
It was brief compared to the previous posts. Nevertheless, the one-sided situation had us at wits’ end; from where we stood, we glimpsed in that brevity Kagu-tsuchi’s strong determination to “surely consign the five of them to oblivion”, and we were made to taste a greater despair than ever before.
At present, we could see no future besides the one proceeding just as Kyouhei Hioka had foretold.
“...Even if it’s because he regrets his sister’s death, for Kyouhei to go this far…”
As expected, Tsuge-san wore a grim expression, and he had little to say.
It was the same for Touko-san. She was not normally the type of person to say anything unnecessary, but more than usual, I was unable to tell what she was thinking. That she had been appointed to an important position in the Kyouhei Hioka disappearance case may also have been a primary contributing factor, but she may have been working at her job with more than the usual vigor because she did not want to harbor unnecessary thoughts.
I chose a time when it was just the two of us in the supervisor’s office.
“Touko-san, what do you think of Kyouhei Hioka?”
I came right out and asked the question that I had been holding back until now.
Touko-san gazed at me wordlessly. I wanted to avert my gaze under the peculiar air of intimidation that she was giving off.
“...Will you not tell me?”
Even so, I did not look away. I believed we could not beat around the bush if we wished to break the current status quo. Even if that meant asking Touko-san a cruel question.
“I don’t think this is the case, but… Do you suspect me?”
In the next moment, Touko-san’s gaze had sharpened.
“...I’m asking because I do not wish to suspect you.”
–Didn’t Kyouhei Hioka have an accomplice?
That was the suspicion harbored by many people, not just myself. Moreover, if that accomplice was part of the investigation team, it would be completely consistent with our absolute inability to grasp Kyouhei Hioka’s whereabouts and how he was always one step ahead of the investigation.
“...How much have you heard?”
“That the two of you were living together.”
There were several people who met the conditions of being former coworkers, but it was also true that there would be no one closer to Kyouhei Hioka than his former lover.
“...That old man’s such a blabbermouth.”
Touko-san gave a shrug of her slender shoulders, wearing a complicated expression.
“...I told you before, Naoto. It was a long time ago. There’s no longer any special connection or special feelings between us. But Kyouhei is still an important person to me even now. Back when I didn’t know left from right, when all I had over everyone else was spirit, Kyouhei was the one who raised me into a full-fledged detective. If it wasn’t for Kyouhei, I wouldn’t be who I am today.”
I caught a glimpse of the depth of her feelings in her sincere gaze.
“Did he speak to you at all concerning this case?”
At my next question, Touko-san sent one glance at the ceiling and whispered, “...He did.
“Kyouhei said he wanted to know the truth of his sister’s death, and I told him to just let it be. Even if we know the truth, it won’t bring back someone who’s gone. I only gave him more empty words. But Kyouhei didn’t listen to my advice. I decided to just keep an eye on him for a while. He thought finding the truth would fill the void left inside him by the death of his sister. Frankly, I was skeptical about how much he could accomplish alone, trying to find the truth within the anonymity of the Internet.”
The corners of Touko-san’s mouth twisted in self-deprecation.
“I was wrong. Once he went renegade, his excellence worked against him. No… It might be more accurate to say that I underestimated Kyouhei’s tenacity. Not only was he able to reach the truth of the ‘baseless slander on the Internet’ that caused his sister’s death, but he showed me he could find a member of the ‘Five Togakushi Judges’, who would not have been found with the organized power of the police.”
“...Could you be speaking of Miyuki Midorikawa?”
“Yes, most likely. He didn’t tell me her name, but considering all that has happened until now, it must be Miyuki Midorikawa, known as Uzune.”
“He continued to make inquiries of the students at his sister’s school every day, and he set his sights on one female student who behaved suspiciously. Somehow Kyouhei extracted the truth of the death from that girl, Miyuki Midorikawa, and became enraged and completely unable to forgive those who had sent her to her death. It was unlike him to be so obsessed.”
Touko-san snorted slightly.
“It’s not just the hatred a victim’s relatives have for the perpetrator, but a feeling of worthlessness because he couldn’t protect her as her older brother, even though he was a detective… This may have been the result of such complex emotions. I felt that the situation was becoming dangerous, so I warned him more strongly than before, ‘Please stop being foolish.’ But in the end, it’s as you see. I wasn’t able to stop Kyouhei.”
Touko-san worried at her lower lip.
“...That man is stupidly serious and absolutely hates things not on the straight and narrow. He would argue with someone if he thought they were wrong, even if they were his senpai or his boss. But strangely, everyone loved him. He was that kind of detective, like a hero of justice. It’s different than with me; I’m not so serious. I couldn’t have imagined Kyouhei would go renegade like that…”
Touko-san casually brushed her bangs back. Her eyes looked sad, peering out between the gaps in her soft hair as it fluttered gently down. I thought that Touko-san may have harbored the same kind of regret over his sister as Kyouhei Hioka did, though she had failed to stop him.
“–So, how was it, Miss Detective? Did you find anything strange in my story?”
When next I realized, before my eyes was her usual fearless smile.
“...No. Nothing.” I slowly shook my head.
“Huh? Is there a reason you trust me so easily?”
“At the very least, I am convinced there were no lies in what you just told me.”
I could say so with confidence. Touko-san was not deceiving me; I could tell her true feelings from her honest tone and behavior.
Touko-san laughed as if she found something humorous. “...In ‘what you just told me’, huh. You’re as shrewd as always.”
Naturally, there was still much about Touko-san I had yet to know.
“I have high hopes for you, Naoto. You might be able to do what I could not.”
Leaving behind those words, Touko-san jauntily left the room. The warm glance she sent me as she went left an impression on me. That was why I was convinced.
–That Touko-san was hiding something from me.
Sousei-san came and took Touko-san’s place in the director’s office. “Oi, Naoto. Is there any progress?” As usual, he conducted himself insolently.
“Not in particular,” I answered coldly as I used the computer. I was nervous because the investigation had reached a dead end, and I did not have the time to courteously deal with Sousei-san’s arrogant attitude toward me.
He did not take well to my behavior.
“Hmph! Some great detective you are!”
Sousei-san stretched out on the sofa as he berated me rudely.
Sousei-san did not have a shred of compassion. He felt nothing even when people died. Sousei-san had held no love for the members of the “Five Togakushi Judges” from the beginning, and when Omoikane had died, he had reacted indifferently. “You reap what you sow.”
I gazed at Sousei-san, reflected on the screen, as I pretended to work with the computer.
The more I looked at him, the more I thought he was as different from me as could be, from our physical sizes to our genders to our personalities. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Sousei-san and I were exact opposites.
Our respective beliefs were born from those differences, and up until now, I had come into frequent opposition with Sousei-san over our conflicting opinions. I thought it would be near-impossible to form a good partnership with such a person. The fact that our Persona abilities had good compatibility was the sole saving grace.
However, it occasionally had its merits. Sometimes I gained new insights from someone who was my complete opposite.
“That Kyouhei Hioka’s more slippery than a snake. He’s like a ghost.”
It was unmistakably one of Sousei-san’s offhand remarks. However, in that moment, I whirled around.
“–What did you say just now?”
“...Huh? I said Kyouhei Hioka’s more slippery than a snake?”
“No, after that.”
“Oh, the ‘he’s like a ghost’ part?”
Sousei-san looked displeased at my question.
“What’s so funny? That’s how it is, right? Kyouhei Hioka’s name keeps coming up, but we haven’t seen him even once.”
My heartbeat accelerated and my thoughts whirled. Before I ascended that bright hope like a thread descending from the sky, I saw the grand scenery spread out underneath me. That was how I felt. I see. So that kind of reasoning was also possible. I had reached a new answer.
[Possibly a reference to Akutagawa Ryuunosuke’s The Spider’s Thread.]
“...It’s just as you say, Sousei-san. He really is a ghost.”
I repeated and nodded.
“Oi, if you figured something out, just say it.”
“No, it’s just that Kyouhei Hioka may be a ghost.”
“...Huh? Naoto, you feeling okay?”
Sousei-san gave me a pitying look at my completely unexpected claim. This was important, and so after straightening up in my seat, I addressed Sousei-san in a serious voice. “What I’m saying is–
“–Perhaps Kyouhei Hioka is already dead.”
With a surprised expression, Sousei-san raised his upper body from where he was lying on the sofa.
“Well well well, isn’t that just ridiculous no matter how you look at it? You don’t mean something occult like the Five Togakushi Judges were killed by Kyouhei Hioka’s ghost, right?”
“If it really is the work of a ghost, I give up. It would be best to call in an exorcist to resolve the case. But this is the work of a human, and that is my specialty.”
“So then who killed Omoikane and them?”
“...I wonder. Most likely an accomplice is involved.”
“An accomplice? Do you know who it is, Naoto?”
Immediately, I shook my head to hide the way I averted my gaze from Sousei-san.
“...No, not yet.”
In truth, I had an idea. I had just now connected the dots. However, I did not yet have enough proof to openly speak of it.
And also, more importantly – I very much did not want to believe it.
“Ah! Geez! I don’t get it! If Kyouhei Hioka isn’t alive anymore, then why? How did he die? Suicide? Or was he killed? And how long has he been dead?”
Agitated, Sousei-san babbled loudly.
“P-please wait a moment. I’ll answer in order. But first, please do not forget that this is merely my conjecture.”
Sousei-san stood right in front of me, scowling, and I pushed him away with both hands.
“...At most, this is only a possibility, but please imagine that Kyouhei Hioka is dead. Even though the murders have occurred, there is not a single witness who has seen the criminal. We can assume he, the former detective, has the advantage in the beginning. Kyouhei Hioka has experience with countless cases, and so I believe he will have a thorough knowledge concerning the possible movements of the police. However, abnormalities begin to surface when you consider that there are no traces at all of Kyouhei Hioka, despite the murders of Uzune, Tajikaro, and Omoikane. I also feel that his existence is like that of air.”
Then I recalled Sousei-san’s “talk of ghosts” and a new idea emerged.
“Huh? No, it’s not like we haven’t seen any trace of him at all, right? Like with Miyuki Midorikawa. The rifling marks on the bullets that killed her matched with Kyouhei Hioka’s gun. And he’s posted as Kagu-tsuchi on the Midnight Site’s forums a few times.”
“It’s true that those are promising clues, but in the end the bullets and forum posts are merely tools, and he was not necessarily the one behind them.”
At my response, Sousei-san answered, “I see,” and nodded, wearing a complicated expression.
“But what about the info on Kyouhei Hioka we got with our Persona abilities? Didn’t we find traces of him in the past conversations with Miyuki Midorikawa and that former soldier?”
“But if we keep in mind the condition that ‘Kyouhei Hioka is not alive’ and once again review those past conversations, something new comes to light.”
At my words, Sousei-san crossed his arms and stared into the distance. He may have been remembering the contents of the various past conversations.
“Take the case of Miyuki Midorikawa. Do you remember how we could not detect Kyouhei Hioka’s side of the past conversation?”
“Oi oi, there’s no way I’d forget that. But that’s because my Tsukuyomi’s ‘Past Reading’ power only detects the conversations of the dead. Then doesn’t it make sense that Kyouhei Hioka’s alive, because we didn’t detect his conversation?”
“...It’s true that was the logical conclusion at the time. How thoughtless of me. I apologize. I was convinced that he must be alive because we did not detect his conversation.”
I bowed my head, and Sousei-san let out an admiring sound. “Heeh.”
“However, if you consider the possibility that he is not alive, like we are now, we can think, ‘Back then, we couldn’t detect Kyouhei Hioka’s conversations because he did not say anything in those places.’”
“...Huh? Is there anything in the past conversations that makes you think so?”
There was a noticeably deep furrow in Sousei-san’s brow. That was why I slowly repeated verbatim the words Miyuki Midorikawa had left at the crime scene.
“H-hey! I talked, right! Put that down! Are you listening to me? Say something! Why me! Why do you have to make me suffer! It’s the Midnight Site’s fault that girl died! And anyway she was hit by a train! She shouldn’t have just gone and fallen from the platform! You reap what you sow! Ah–––––––”
“...Are you kidding me? I’m a robot and you’ve got a better memory than me. Are you really human?”
“I’ll turn those words back on you. Why is your memory so poor, Sousei-san?”
“Shut up! I’m a robot almost exactly like a human, not a computer!”
“It’s the same for me. It’s simply that having a good memory is an essential skill for a detective.”
I cleared my throat quietly. This was not the time for unproductive arguments, and I resumed my explanation. “Take note of the first half.
“Just before Miyuki Midorikawa died, she said ‘Are you listening to me?’ and ‘Say something!’ in a harsh tone to the other person. Following that, from what she says in her confusion, I imagine a scene where she faces ‘an opponent who does not say a word’, who is looking down on her with a cold gaze and has a gun right in front of her.”
“Well, I can see it too, but why…”
Sousei-san’s eyes widened as he realized something halfway through.
“...Oi oi, you don’t mean Kyouhei Hioka might’ve already been dead the night we went to the crime scene?”
“The possibility does exist.” I nodded. “What I propose is ‘we operate under the assumption that Kyouhei Hioka is dead’. In the end it is merely a hypothesis, and you have voiced your doubts, Sousei-san. I cannot hazard a guess as to his time and cause of death. In reality, I believe the probability that Kyouhei Hioka is alive to be roughly equal to the probability that he is dead.”
“...Huh? What the hell does that mean? Can’t you put it simply? So then what’re we supposed to do? I won’t stand for it if we just wasted our time after all that work.”
Sousei-san shook his head in an exaggerated motion like a Westerner.
“...It’s true that it may have been a waste of time. But since we don’t have any other clues at present, we absolutely must not overlook even the slightest suspicion.”
“Yeah yeah, I’m so grateful for your opinion, oh great detective… I think I’m gonna throw up.”
“Please don’t mock me.” I glared at Sousei-san reproachfully. “Sousei-san, are you forgetting that there are things only we can do?”
“...Yeah, I know. We’ve got ‘Personas’.”
Sousei-san grinned broadly.
“Exactly. Sousei-san, if we have your Tsukuyomi’s ability, ‘Past Reading’, we can confirm whether Kyouhei Hioka is alive or dead. This is something only we can do.”
April 11 Kyouhei Hioka’s apartment
It was inevitable that we chose Kyouhei Hioka’s own apartment as the place we went to determine whether he was alive or dead.
We knew from the investigation reports that Kyouhei Hioka’s apartment was located in the suburbs of Yagokoro, and we traveled there at once, using Sousei-san’s bike form.
We explained to the apartment landlady that we were from the Yagokoro Police Department. She wore an expression of obvious displeasure. “...Again?” Perhaps it was because she had interacted with the police countless times, but she showed us to the landlord’s room, said “Drop the key in the room’s mailbox when you want to return it,” and departed, leaving us to our own devices.
“The hell’s up with that old woman?” Sousei-san objected to the landlady’s rude behavior, but it was a great help, for it saved me the effort of hiding the existence of our Personas.
It was on the third floor of an apartment building in a sunny place. It was a three-bedroom apartment with living room, dining room, and kitchen. The flooring was done in the Western style. It was quite an ordinary apartment.
It seemed Kyouhei Hioka had lived here together with Kaoru Hioka, his younger sister, who had moved to this apartment from the countryside to attend high school in preparation for going to university. There were traces of the police’s investigation everywhere. But the impression of the Hioka siblings’ daily life together still lingered in the kitchen, washroom, and bathroom, causing pain within me.
“Well, it’s not a very big apartment, so I could do it on my own, but there’s no way I’ll be satisfied doing it all myself. Naoto, you’ll call out your Persona and power up my Tsukuyomi, right?”
It was discomforting that I had grown surprisingly used to Sousei-san’s arrogant behavior, when he had been disagreeable from the very beginning. But, well, I was grateful that his way of going about his business meant he did not feel inclined to have a serious discussion with me.
“That was my intention from the beginning, even without you telling me.”
Naturally, I had come to adopt an unrestrained attitude in matters concerning him.
“Hmph!” Sousei-san snorted in dissatisfaction.
“–Come out! Tsukuyomi!” he shouted, facing the center of the room and holding his hand up.
At the same time, I laid my palm on Sousei-san’s back, supporting him, and whispered, “...Give me power, Amatsu Mikaboshi.” The words that left my mouth were firm, but the fact that we were about to “work to determine if someone is dead” weighed heavily on my mind.
The marquee on Tsukuyomi’s head filled with words as soon as we began searching. There was a huge number of past conversations. Sousei-san and I exchanged glances full of confidence.
The reason there were many past conversations was because there were “two people’s worth of lines”.
“B-brother, how’ve you been lately?”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“Um, like with work?”
“Ah, it’s the same as always. I’m busy. But I’m satisfied, because I can protect the peace of this city through my hard work. See? Don’t I say some cool things? Do you respect me more now?”
“Are you stupid? You only ever think about work. That’s why you won’t ever get married.”
“H-hey. No matter how you look at it, a lot of girls want to marry me, you know? A little while ago, a young woman in the traffic division asked if I have a girlfriend!”
“Was that all? No progress? You’re not going out with her?”
“...Well, you know, adults have got a lot of complicated things going on.”
“How suspicious. You had a girlfriend five years ago, right? Are you actually still in love with her?”
“Uwah, you’re serious! You really do still like her a lot!”
“No, uh, enough about me! Wasn’t there something you wanted to talk about?”
“...N-not really. It’s nothing.”
“...It’s not nothing. If there’s something you want to talk about, don’t hesitate to tell me, okay?”
“...I wonder. Isn’t it too hard for you to understand the worries of a modern-day high school girl?”
“...No, if you put it that way, there’s not really anything I can say… well, just don’t hold back, okay? You’re the only sibling I’ve got.”
“...Ah, yeah. If there’s anything I want to talk about.”
The speech style was that of a young woman. This could only be a past conversation of Kaoru Hioka, who had been confirmed dead. The speech style of the other person was that of a man who referred to himself using “ore” – and from the fact that Kaoru Hioka called the man “Brother”, it seemed there was no doubt he was Kyouhei Hioka.
[“ore” is a rough way of referring to oneself, generally pretty rude, and used only by men.]
“Be happy, Naoto. Bingo. Just as you predicted, Kyouhei Hioka is already dead.”
“...I’m not happy about this kind of bingo. I am only happy that this discovery will propel the investigation forward.”
The sooner we could resolve this sad case, the better.
“So now the problem is when Kyouhei Hioka died, right? If we know when, then a lot of the assumptions change?”
“...Yes.” I nodded quietly. “However, we’re still in the process of detecting past conversations, so we’ll think about that after we’ve exhausted the available information.”
“Hmph.” Sousei-san gave a slight nod and started concentrating again.
We detected countless of the Hioka siblings’ conversations in the living room alone. However, because it was the living room, they were all everyday conversations with no connection to the case.
“–At any rate, simply having confirmed that Kyouhei Hioka is dead is a good enough result.”
That alone made coming to the apartment worth it. In addition, by changing locations and continuing to use Sousei-san’s “Past Reading”, we would certainly be able to find the information we needed.
Once we had left Kyouhei Hioka’s apartment, we returned to the Yagokoro police station. That was to obtain information on Kyouhei Hioka’s favorite shops and places before he went into hiding.
“–Sousei-san. Will you please keep this matter a secret between the two of us?”
I murmured to the bike I was riding as it ran along the highway to the police station.
“Huh? You mean that Kyouhei Hioka is really dead?”
I nodded when Sousei-san asked me in a suspicious voice. “Yes.”
“I get it if you’re talking about Ai and Gramps Tsuge, but… you want to keep it a secret from Touko too?”
I hesitated briefly before nodding a second time. “...That’s right.”
“...Oi, Naoto, what’s that supposed to mean?”
Sousei-san’s voice momentarily sharpened. He pulled the bike to a sudden stop in the roadside zone.
“I won’t just go along with hiding something from Touko, you know? Tell me why.”
I could see Sousei-san’s seriousness in the way his tone had changed suddenly and his voice had lowered from before.
I had heard they were old acquaintances. Before, I had thought from the way Sousei-san acted that Touko Aoi was a very special person to him. But I was only now realizing that she was more “special” to him than I had thought.
“It’s… Though he may be her ex-lover, I believe it will not be easy to tell Touko-san that Kyouhei Hioka has actually passed away…”
And so I lied to Sousei-san.
“Ah, I see… No, but she’ll find out sooner or later, right? So instead of finding out from someone else, it’s better if she hears it from me… But then, Touko’s a woman even if she acts all tough, so she’ll feel hurt… Maybe I should be careful…”
Sousei-san was honestly worried, not suspecting me of lying in the slightest and thinking only of Touko-san’s feelings.
“Dammit! It’s impossible! I’m bad with this sensitivity thing! You do it, Naoto!”
“...Yes. I will take responsibility for this matter.”
“Okay! I’ll leave it to you!” With an encouraging yell to the surroundings, the bike starting running again.
I was saved just now by the fact that I was riding atop the bike. I did not want to speak to Sousei-san face-to-face.
I was sorry that I had to lie to Sousei-san, my partner. However, seeing his faith in Touko-san, I did not believe he would be able to listen with an open mind to what I had to say.
–I suspected Touko Aoi.
If I said that, I would meet with strong resistance from Sousei-san. That resistance was not the problem. The problem was that I could not offer a rebuttal.
Even if I said I doubted Touko-san, most of my reasons were insufficient to support my deduction.
I did not have decisive evidence and I could not even imagine a motive. It was nothing more than that Touko-san was the closest match of the conditions necessary to be Kyouhei Hioka’s accomplice. Right now I was still working to gather proof and I did not yet have the confidence to tell anyone.
In this situation, I believed that it was too early to tell Sousei-san that I suspected Touko-san. I thought it would only lead to unnecessary strife.
So I persuaded myself, but an unpleasant feeling tightened around my heart.
–It was at that moment. The smartphone in my jacket pocket vibrated. I quickly grabbed my phone and checked the display. It was an e-mail from the station.
“...Sousei-san, ‘Sarutahiko’ is finally on the move!”
Sarutahiko, one of the two remaining members of the “Five Togakushi Judges” and otherwise known as Shirou Konno, had revealed himself in a public place. The location was one familiar to us – Yagokoro High School, where Shirou Konno served as student council president.
“Oh, isn’t this lucky? The bastard’s saving us the trouble of looking for him.”
“No, he’s not that careless. This is the worst possible situation.”
Shirou Konno had not simply returned to the school after going missing.
“It’s uncertain where he obtained it, but Shirou Konno is in possession of a ‘pistol’. Moreover, it seems he has taken one of the female students hostage and has barricaded himself on the school roof…”
“Damn, every one of those ‘Five Togakushi Judges’ is fucking insane!”
I too found Shirou Konno’s actions to be incomprehensible.
Just as Sousei-san said, it would be difficult to call Shirou Konno a good person. On the surface, he wore the face of student council president, but he was also a member of the Five Togakushi Judges, and he could easily utilize both sides for his purposes. However, I found it shocking that Shirou Konno, who possessed the determination and caution to hide his other face from everyone at school, would take such hasty action as taking a hostage.
What had happened to change his mind?
“...In any case, let’s hurry to the school.”
The matter involving Kyouhei Hioka was also important, but right now, the current incident took top priority.
“Okay! Let’s fly! Hold on tight!”
“Eh! What? W-wait–”
Without my consent, without any attention to the chorus of horns from the cars passing around us, Sousei-san drifted on the main street and did a U-turn. It felt as if I was about to be thrown off the bike by the strong force throughout my whole body. My insides grew cold. I was furious, and I struck the body of the bike with my fist with all my strength.
“Huh? What? Naoto? What’s up?”
“...N-no, it’s nothing.”
Sousei-san was calm and composed, and my revenge led only to my fist hurting.
April 11 Yagokoro High School Rooftop
When we reached Yagokoro High School, the area was already in an uproar. Curious onlookers milled about, asking what had happened, and I did not know where they had heard the news, but people who seemed to be reporters were scattered here and there within the crowd.
It was forbidden for those not connected to the police to enter the school grounds, and there were uniformed policemen wearing bulletproof vests lined up neatly near the gate. I could hear the policemen arguing whether they “should send in the Special Investigation Team.”
It was an imposing sight that made me wonder if this was really the school I went to every day.
“Excuse us.” As Sousei-san and I pushed through the people and neared the gate, the students, who it seemed had been made to evacuate the school grounds, simultaneously raised their voices and cheered. I merely greeted everyone quickly, but Sousei-san answered with an energetic cheer of his own. “It’ll be fine now that we’re here!”
“Do your best!” There were faces I recognized from the newspaper club among the students, and I could hear them encouraging me.
As we drew closer, my homeroom teacher emphasized with a worried expression, “...I know this is your job, Shirogane, but don’t push yourself too hard.”
I nodded firmly. “...Yes.” I was truly happy that everyone felt this way.
We received permission from the uniformed policemen standing before the gates like gatekeepers and set foot on the school grounds. The premises were quiet and calm. I felt uneasy, as if I had become lost in an unknown place.
When I directed my gaze to the roof, I could see what looked like the shadow of a person. We passed the shoe racks and climbed the stairs, heading for the roof. As we ascended, the voice of an elderly man steadily grew louder. That voice, transmitted through a megaphone, was trying desperately to persuade the one who had barricaded himself on the roof.
The entrance to the roof was crowded with police officers, both in and out of uniform. I spotted Touko-san among them. I caught my breath to calm myself, and:
“Will you be quiet for a moment!?”
A shrill voice came from near the fence on the rooftop.
“You know! I don’t believe a single word of those makeshift promises you adults make! Don’t give me words, give me action! Don’t give me promises, give me results! I want proof you’ll guarantee my safety!”
The source of the voice was a nervous-looking boy with black-rimmed glasses who I had seen in photos in the investigation files. However, perhaps because of his lifestyle when he had been missing – no, when he ran away – he looked like a completely different person. There were black circles under his eyes, his cheeks were hollow, and his hair was unkempt. All traces of the former Shirou Konno, an intellectual so much an honor student that he had been chosen as student council president, had disappeared.
“...Don’t worry, Konno. We, the police, will assume full responsibility for protecting you.”
“Huh? Are you serious? If you are, doesn’t that say a lot about your sense of justice?”
Shirou Konno’s mouth twisted into a vulgar smile unbefitting of a high school student.
“You’ll assume full responsibility for protecting me? Don’t make me laugh! Didn’t Omoikane die because you police were incompetent!? If you adults were a just little smarter, Tajikarao wouldn’t have died!”
Shirou Konno’s expression was filled with madness.
“You’re only good at bragging! Catch Kagu-tsuchi right now! I’m fed up with running away! Why is the world full of idiots? Why does someone superior like me have to be yanked around like this by rabble?”
His mental stability was on its last legs. His assertions were incoherent. These self-centeredness thoughts may have reflected his true nature, but it was quite removed from the kind of person I had imagined.
Hearing him speak as he pleased, the surrounding policemen gritted their teeth and tightly clenched their hands into fists to bear his jeering. It was surely frustrating. Nonetheless, we could not move. Careless actions would compromise the safety of the hostage.
Shirou Konno’s right hand gripped a revolver that glinted a dull black. Though he was far away, I knew it was an automatic. The type of gun was – a Sig Saeur P230. Beside him was a female Yagokoro High School student who had been taken hostage. Shirou Konno’s and the hostage’s waists were tied together by a yellow and black construction rope. In a cunning move, Shirou Konno and the girl he had taken hostage were standing on the edge of the roof.
In other words, he was telling everyone that, if anything happened to him, he would take the hostage down with him. For example, if an SIT sniper shot him, the hostage would tumble from the roof headlong into the ground.
“...S… Shirogane-ku… n… h-help…”
At that moment, the girl whispered in a hoarse voice like a mosquito buzzing. I looked closely at the hostage. I caught my breath at the haggard face peering at me from behind the messy hair. “...Ta-Takizawa-san.”
The female student who had been taken hostage was the one who sat in the seat next to mine in class and was deeply connected to Kaoru Hioka’s case, Takizawa-san.
“I only have one demand! Catch Kagu-tsuchi! I don’t care if he’s dead or alive! Actually, the world would be better off if a murderous demon like him was killed! Anyway! I won’t release the hostage under any other conditions!”
Touko-san clicked her tongue quietly at Shirou Konno’s shouts.
“...If Kagu-tsuchi is a demon, what does that make you guys… You’re devils disguised as humans…”
Touko-san appeared to be as beautiful and cool as usual, but I could clearly feel a strong anger from the words she murmured as if they were forced out of her.
“All of you police guys! Don’t just stand around there forever! Hurry up and arrest Kagu-tsuchi! ...I’m telling you, I’m serious.”
Saying that, Shirou Konno ground the muzzle of the gun against Takizawa-san’s temple as she sobbed, “H-Hic… I-I’m sorry… P-please forgive me…”
In the next instant, Shirou Konno’s eyes filled with anger.
“...It’s not just a bluff… I really will shoot… Shooting one person’s not much different from shooting ‘two’, is it?”
Everyone was taken by surprise at Shirou Konno’s sudden confession, and the scene became an uproar.
“K-Konno! W-Who are you saying you shot…?”
The veteran detective in charge of persuasion asked the question on everyone’s minds.
“I don’t know! That person came to kill me, saying it was for revenge, so I just turned the tables. It was legitimate self-defense. By the way, I borrowed this gun from ‘em. Ah, they had a gun, so they might’ve been with you police guys. A police officer coming to take the life of an innocent citizen like me, what’s the world coming to…”
“...K-Konno, was this person a man? Or a woman? Did they give their name? And when was this…?”
[Konno uses “aite” to refer to the person when he needs to, which is a gender-neutral “partner/opponent” type of word. Japanese doesn’t really use gendered pronouns, thus why the next paragraph asks. I couldn’t really preserve the ambiguity very well without using “them”, which is odd in English no matter how you look at it.]
“Ahh, geez, if you want to know! Then bring Kagu-tsuchi to me already! I’ll add more conditions before I release the hostage!”
Standing amidst the surrounding tumult of indignation, agitation, and various other emotions, I was convinced.
“–Hey, Naoto, the cop that bastard turned the tables on, it can’t be…”
Sousei-san whispered in my ear, as if taking no note of our surroundings, and I nodded slightly in return. “...Yes, there’s no doubt.”
It was valid to assume that Shirou Konno had killed Kyouhei Hioka.
Logically, wouldn’t it have occurred after Kyouhei Hioka murdered Miyuki Midorikawa?
Kyouhei Hioka, who had discovered the Five Togakushi Judges, beginning with Miyuki Midorikawa. And Shirou Konno, who had had a close relationship with Miyuki Midorikawa. I could easily imagine that Miyuki Midorikawa had told Shirou Konno to beware of Kyouhei Hioka. If he had lost communication with Miyuki Midorikawa… Taking into account Shirou Konno’s personality, it was inevitable that he would next take drastic measures to preserve his own safety. Running away could then be considered the first of Shirou Konno’s countermeasures.
“Ahh, why did this have to happen to me… Dammit, dammit, it’s all over… Everything’s all messed up…”
Shirou Konno gazed at the barrel of the gun and grumbled in a whisper. He was in a dangerous mental state. If we did not deal with the situation promptly, I could well imagine the worst-case scenario, that he would reach his limit and go wild, taking Takizawa-san along with him.
Be that as it may, there was no way the police would acquiesce to his demands. At any rate, the police had not yet even found traces of Kyouhei Hioka, believed to be Kagu-tsuchi. In addition, Shirou Konno’s unexpected, sudden confession that he “shot someone who was a police officer” had thrown those around us into extreme turmoil.
–Perhaps Kagu-tsuchi was already before us. That was what I thought as I sent a sidelong glance at the cool beauty who was scowling silently at Shirou Konno.
But my current priority was Takizawa-san. I looked at her as she continued to tremble slightly; the mental rather than physical strain seemed to be the more extreme.
After my short moment of indecision – I took advantage of the confusion to jump out onto the roof.
“Shirou Konno! I have a proposal for you!”
The sun sinking behind the capsule-shaped water tank left a dark shadow on the concrete floor. Of course, there was no one else around me. I was alone. Before me stood Shirou Konno. There was no place to take cover.
“W-What? Naoto! What’re you doing!?”
Sousei-san’s yell came from behind me. I let the additional warnings raining on me simultaneously from those associated with the police slide right past me; I already knew well enough myself.
I confirmed that Shirou Konno had slowly lifted his face and registered my presence with hollow eyes before continuing.
“I am Shirogane. This spring, I transferred into Yagokoro High School as a third-year. Please take me as a hostage instead of that girl.”
A commotion arose among the police as they heard my words.
“...You look familiar… Oh yeah, you’re the rumored Detective Prince?”
Shirou Konno narrowed his eyes in an open display of wariness.
I was well aware that I was grandstanding. However, I had not thought I would receive permission through negotiations. Even had I been given permission, I did not know how long I would have had to wait, with the situation in its current state of confusion.
“Look. She is already at her limit. Please release her.”
At my words, Shirou Konno sent the girl a sideways glance. Takizawa-san’s face was pale and she would not stop trembling.
“I am accustomed to these situations. As a detective, I am well-known to the police, and I believe I can be of help in the negotiations later on.”
There was no more time to waste for Takizawa-san. Any further pressure on her would likely cause irreparable damage to her spirit.
I took off my jacket so that I was wearing only a single shirt. Next I turned out my pockets and showed them to Shirou Konno. “As you can see, I am unarmed.”
“A-a woman?” Shirou Konno looked closely at me, suspicious. His gaze was focused on the curves of my chest.
“...Yes, I’m a woman,” I immediately responded.
I was being sarcastic. I didn’t want to be looked down upon by the adults around me, so I had, up until now, gone out of my way to avoid admitting that I was a woman at the scene of an investigation. That being said, it was possible that he would let down his guard if he were aware that I was female, and so I actively asserted that fact.
Shirou Konno was silently studying me from head to toe. His gaze, full of suspicion, crawled slowly over me like a slug, and I felt as if I would let out a shriek of disgust.
“...That’s fine. Come here.”
Somehow it seemed that I had pleased him.
“...But if you act even a little bit weird – I’ll shoot without mercy.”
I nodded sharply and moved slowly toward Shirou Konno. My feet were leaden as I stepped forward.
If I made any imprudent movements, this man would not hesitate to pull the trigger. I could not assume any leeway in the handling of Shirou Konno just because his self-assurance was turning into desperation. The slightest incentive could cause him to blow his top.
I carefully walked forward until I was beside Takizawa-san.
“...It’s all right now,” I whispered, and perhaps Takizawa-san calmed down, because her knees suddenly gave out under her and she sank to the concrete floor. Flustered, I propped up the dazed girl as she kneeled on the pavement.
“Untie the rope around that girl’s waist and tie it around yourself.”
Shirou Konno looked down at me and ordered oppressively. The gun’s barrel was pointed at the back of my head. I nodded without looking at the gun and did as Shirou Konno ordered, untying the yellow and black rope from around Takizawa-san’s waist.
To be honest, I had no plan for what would come after becoming a hostage. In any case, I believed that rescuing Takizawa-san took precedence.
However, now that I was near Shirou Konno, I thought that perhaps the opportunity to persuade him would arise. In addition, I had Sousei-san. There was still much friction between us, but I had full faith in Touko-san’s ability to handle incidents at the scene.
...It happened just as I finished untying the rope – a single gunshot echoed across the roof and into the reddish sky above.
Suddenly, a warm “something” touched my cheek. When I reached up and touched my skin, a sticky liquid redder than the sunset clung to my fingertips. Thinking that I had been shot, my entire body stiffened. However, I did not hurt anywhere. I promptly lifted my head.
Before me, Shirou Konno’s eyes were wide with shock and he was standing stock-still. In the next moment, the gun tumbled from his hand and made a dry noise as it fell on the concrete.
–Then, with his eyes still wide open, Shirou Konno slumped over slowly and fell face-first on the floor. The dull crack of a human body hitting concrete echoed across the roof.
When I looked, there were purplish-red traces of a bullet’s scorch marks on Shirou Konno’s temple, and a fan-shaped stain the color of a ripened tomato thrown against a wall was spreading out across the gray floor.
I realized that there was deep shadow as long as a cypress at my feet. Flustered, I turned around. The smell of gunpowder assaulted my nostrils, accompanied by gray smoke which rose up from a dark hole – standing there was a woman in a daunting pose, both hands grasping a revolver. There was only that one person, her face expressionless.
At once, I felt anger well up from the depths of my heart, and I opened my mouth to shout that woman’s name at the top of my lungs. However, faster than I could give it voice, my words were lost amidst the shouts of the surrounding police, though whether they were screams or roars of anger, I could not tell.
At last, she quietly lowered the gun she held and turned on her heel, facing the police gathered at the entrance to the rooftop.
“–As the one in charge here, I am proud to have chosen the best course of action. If you insist on saying my actions in this matter were mistaken, resign yourself and accept your punishment.”
Everyone wore complicated expressions as they gazed at Touko-san. However, no one was able to say a word. Most likely, no one could fathom what had just happened.
Were her actions excessive or justified?
It was not a simple question. We would not have an answer until the time was right. Along those lines, all I could do was mutter dumbfoundedly, “Why?”, as I continued to glare at her.
April 11 Yagokoro High School In front of the main gate
Several hours had passed since the “hostage barricade incident”. The sunlight had waned and the campus was beginning to be enveloped in the shrouds of night.
Most of the police had disappeared, save for a few who remained to conduct the crime scene investigation. There was to be a press conference tonight on the incident at the Yagokoro police office, and so the reporters had already departed. The bystanders had left before the sun set. Similarly, there was no passing traffic.
I was the only one still standing in front of the now-deserted school gates.
“...How long are you gonna stay at school? Is there something for us to do here?”
All save for the person who had ignored my words to “Go on ahead.”
“If there’s something we should do, isn’t it to gather up info from Shirou Konno’s past conversations with my great Tsukuyomi and your Amatsu-Mikaboshi?”
Sousei-san’s opinion was correct. Up until now, I had unhesitatingly chosen to take action in situations in which I could use my Persona. However, the circumstances had been significantly different.
“Well, in that case, there’s a reason for us to stay at this school, where Shirou Konno was student council president. But it’s weird. It doesn’t look like you want to try at all. I really don’t get you.”
Sousei-san bent over and peered at me doubtfully as I stood motionless, leaning my back against the brickwork gate.
“...I told you to please go on ahead, didn’t I? I am waiting to attend to personal business.”
“...Waiting? For who?”
I was startled by Sousei-san’s inquiry.
“...Isn’t that why I said it’s personal? Please excuse me, but won’t you leave me alone?”
I was fully aware that I was speaking rudely, but to be frank, I did not want Sousei-san to witness the scene that was about to occur. Half of me thought he would be a bother and half of me felt guilty for lying to him.
“Don’t be stupid! There’s no way I can leave you alone when you’re like this, Naoto!”
“...Haven’t you figured it out yet? You’re definitely acting weird, you know?”
I stared at Sousei-san inadvertently. As I wordlessly looked at him, Sousei-san’s eyebrows knit in confusion. “W-What? What’re you looking at?”
“...Could it be that you’re worried about me?”
“W-Wha? Not really! I’m not worried or anything! I’m just yelling at you to pull yourself together!”
Sousei-san was more shaken than I had expected. That was why I responded disinterestedly, “Really…” This would really be a troublesome time for him to act kind. The “guilt” within me won out slightly over the thought that he would be a bother.
“I am waiting… For Touko-san to come…”
I admitted to Sousei-san only one of the truths behind my feeling of guilt.
“Oh, I get it! It’s Touko! There’s a lot you have to talk about with her!”
Sousei-san nodded, satisfied.
“Ah, but then, why were you keeping it secret from me? If you’re just meeting Touko, it’s not like there’s anything wrong with having me along, right?”
“...Haa.” Though I answered ambiguously, Sousei-san inclined his head.
There was a great deal wrong, but now there was no way for me to easily drive away Sousei-san. I could only give up. He would find out eventually, and I was only delaying the inevitable.
Suddenly, I realized that several dozen shadows were leaving through the front door of the school building. They were the police and their associates, with Touko-san walking at the head of the group. I immediately rushed over to Touko-san.
Touko-san took in my expression and stopped walking in the middle of the path leading to the gate. “...You return to the office first,” she ordered the subordinate detectives.
The detectives bowed, saying, “Then we’ll see you later,” and disappeared. The only three left on the path between the school building and the gate were Sousei-san, Touko-san, and me.
Touko-san and I stood in the center of the path, gazing wordlessly at each other.
“...You have your cute side too, Naoto, waiting for me to finish work.”
Touko-san was the first to break the silence. She smiled a little as she drew closer to me.
“Please stop acting so transparent!”
I cried out roughly as I faced Touko-san. From the beginning, I had had no intention of holding back. I no longer had any need to delve into her motives. Touko-san did not look surprised. She regarded me calmly as I glared at her.
“...Oi, what’s all this about, Naoto? Why are you suddenly mad at Touko?”
The only one surprised was Sousei-san, who knew nothing. Sousei-san stared at Touko-san and I in turn.
“Back then! Why did you shoot Shirou Konno?”
I continued, paying no mind to Sousei-san.
“Are you forgetting what I said on the roof, Naoto? I was in charge of this situation, and I judged shooting Shirou Konno to be the best course of action.”
“Was it necessary to kill him!?”
“You’re speaking in hindsight.”
“You’re lying!” I immediately shook my head. “Touko-san, you have the skill to hit your opponent’s temple with a single shot. It should not have been difficult to shoot his revolver, arm, or leg, such that you would not inflict a fatal wound.”
“It was my only chance. What if I had missed and Shirou Konno had had the chance for a counterattack? And if you had been in danger, Naoto? If you think about it like that, there was no way I would hesitate to kill him.”
“...Why did you have to choose that moment to shoot?”
“Are you saying there would have been a better time to kill Shirou Konno than when the rope wasn’t tied around the hostage?”
Touko-san snorted with laughter.
“That’s not the point! I’m asking why you did not allow me the chance to persuade him! There’s no way you could have misunderstood my intentions. Wouldn’t it have been all right just to wait and see? Can you not trust me?”
“I’m afraid you’re forgetting something. In the first place, who was it that got you involved in this case, Naoto? Who was it that often assigns you to an important role in this case? It was all because of me, wasn’t it? I’m upset that you think I don’t trust you. No one trusts you more than me, Naoto.”
I could not detect any wavering in Touko-san’s gaze. On the contrary, she was full of confidence.
–Why was that? She should have some inkling of the ugly truth I was about to reveal to her. For this reason, I had waited until everyone was gone and she was the only person left.
In the next moment, Sousei-san gripped my shoulders so hard it hurt.
“Oi! Naoto! Cut that out! There’s no fucking reason to treat Touko like that! I don’t think her judgment was wrong. No one can complain about Shirou Konno getting shot. You get that much, right?”
“That’s right, Naoto. Konno’s death was the proper punishment for his sins. That man performed such vile acts as taking a hostage and menacing her with a gun. On top of that, he confessed to unhesitatingly having shot a police officer. You heard them too, right, Naoto? All of his rude remarks? Could you believe them? On top of that, wasn’t that man, in that situation, only thinking about himself, that he’d done nothing wrong and he was so unfortunate?”
Touko-san suddenly extended her finger and softly touched my cheek.
“There was no way I would put you in danger for that complete bastard’s sake, Naoto!”
Unusually, Touko-san raised her voice.
“Yeah! That’s right, Naoto! Touko saved your life. This is where you’re supposed to lower your head and bow. Or are you still gonna insist stupidly that that shitty bastard deserved to live?”
Immediately, I shook my head emphatically and brushed away Sousei-san’s and Touko-san’s hands at the same time.
“I know that! Shirou Konno was a warped individual! I know that Miyuki Midorikawa and Alex Brown and Osamu Haida all had twisted ways of thinking!”
“...W-What’s up? Naoto? We’re talking about Konno now, aren’t we? You’re right, but they’ve got nothing to do with this, right?”
Sousei-san pressed me for answers, but right now, I only had eyes for Touko-san.
“However, even so, it’s wrong to think that they had to die. I am not saying that just to sound good. I’m trying to say that our duty remains the same no matter what kind of person we face, the duty of detectives like me and police like you, Touko-san.”
I took a single deep breath and told Touko-san straight-out.
“...Touko-san – you are ‘Kagu-tsuchi’, aren’t you?”
In the next moment, the one who spoke was of course that person.
“...Haa? Why you! Don’t screw around! Naoto! What the hell are you doing? What the fuck are you thinking, suspecting Touko like this?”
Sousei-san grabbed me by the collar with both hands. He was so forceful it seemed he would strike me. However, my gaze still did not leave Touko-san.
“...Sousei. Let go of Naoto.”
Touko-san said quietly. She regarded me without so much as raising an eyebrow. Her gaze showed not a hint of agitation; rather, it was even calmer than usual.
“...Huh? Why? Are you fine with Naoto treating you like a damn criminal, Touko? I won’t fucking forgive you for doubting Touko, even if you’re joking!”
“It’s fine. Let go of her.”
“...Sousei. Can’t you hear me?”
At that moment, Touko-san’s gaze pierced Sousei-san like a needle.
“...Che… Got it.”
Sousei-san shook his hands off me roughly. “There’s a good boy.” Touko-san’s attitude was overbearing, but she regarded me much as an older sister would a disobedient younger brother.
“Will you explain your reasoning to me?”
Touko-san faced me once again.
“Why you think I’m ‘Kagu-tsuchi’.”
“...You don’t think my claim is absurd, as Sousei-san does?”
As I made to fix the collar of my dishevelled shirt, I surreptitiously examined Touko-san’s expression. I had my doubts. Touko-san was unusually composed.
As a detective, I had just exposed her secrets. No matter how strong her nerves, it would be in my favor if she showed even a hint of agitation.
“It’s like I said before. No one trusts you more than me, Naoto.”
Touko-san’s lips curved upward as she spoke. Seeing that small smile confirmed it for me. Most likely, Touko-san “knew”.
“You’re not about to tell me there’s no reason for it?”
“That’s a foolish question.”
When I replied to Touko-san’s claim, I was bluffing, but I did my best to force a smile. I was about to shatter everything between us. I resolved to do so.
“The reason I suspect you to be Kagu-tsuchi – is because the one we believed to be the most likely suspect, Kyouhei Hioka, is already dead.”
This was a new fact we had only obtained today and of course had not yet reported to Touko-san. As expected, Touko-san lifted her eyebrows high in surprise at the fact that I knew. Her eyes were asking, “How do you know that?”
However, the wavering was only momentary. For some reason, Touko-san began nodding in satisfaction.
“...I see. Using Sousei’s ‘Past Reading’ and Naoto’s ‘Ability Tune’ Persona abilities, you figured out that Kyouhei is no longer of this world.”
I knew from the way she said it.
“Touko-san, you really did know Kyouhei Hioka is already dead.”
Touko-san didn’t answer, only smiled self-deprecatingly. It seemed to me a terribly sad smile.
“Naoto, when did you first think I was suspicious?”
“It started with the case of Alex Brown, known as Tajikarao.”
I recalled the events that occurred in the back alley of the pleasure quarter.
“At that time, Sousei-san and I chased him, but we failed to catch him. Then when we found him again several minutes later, he was already dead. I acknowledge that failing to catch him was an error on our part. However, Kyouhei Hioka had to have been truly skilled to murder Alex Brown in the space of a few short minutes; furthermore, he snuck through the net the police had set up and didn’t leave any significant clues. Of course, that would be if Kyouhei Hioka really was the perpetrator…”
I slowly spoke of the circumstances at that time and my own thoughts.
“The first doubt I had was ‘Would he be able to commit such a difficult crime on his own?’ The same could be asked about the case of Osamu Haida, known as Omoikane.”
For example, even if Kyouhei Hioka knew the arrangement of the rooms in the police dormitory, his face was known, and it was not a place he could readily enter.
“At that time, I suspected the existence of an ‘accomplice’ more strongly than before. When I thought about what kind of accomplice was most likely and fit the conditions, I deduced that it could only be someone associated with the police. In addition, they would ideally have ties to the ‘Yagokoro High School student disappearance case’. In that case, if he had the guidance of such an accomplice, I believed it would not be unlikely that he could carry out two such difficult crimes.”
“So, you’re saying that I could be one of those accomplices?”
“Yes. Just looking at the circumstances, he has other coworkers and detectives who are his kouhai. But by chance, I heard from Tsuge-san that Kyouhei Hioka and you are ex-lovers and lived together at one time, and you became the most likely candidate.”
There was no way I could stay cool. If possible, I wanted this to be a mistake on my part.
“...Touko-san, the other day I asked you, ‘What do you think of Kyouhei Hioka?’ I thought you would notice because you’re you, Touko-san, but at that time, I was indirectly asking, ‘Aren’t you his accomplice?’”
Beside me, Sousei-san yelled, “Naoto! That stuff! You didn’t tell me about it!” However, Sousei-san did not move. That was because Touko-san sent a glance at him, keeping him in check. “Continue.”
“At that time, I confirmed that you were hiding something from me from your sentimental behavior, Touko-san. Then soon after, we learned of Kyouhei Hioka’s death. I no longer had any choice but to suspect you of being an accomplice.”
“I see.” Touko-san slowly nodded. “So then why did you think Kyouhei was dead? Was it just coincidence?”
I shook my head.
“Sousei-san gave me a hint. It was something he said. He said Kyouhei Hioka was ‘like a ghost’. When I heard that, I began to think. Perhaps it wasn’t that Kyouhei Hioka ‘wouldn’t reveal himself’, but he ‘couldn’t reveal himself’. In other words, perhaps he was no longer of this world.”
“Thinking outside the box, huh.”
Touko-san ducked her head.
“Yes, it’s just as you said earlier, Touko-san. When we went to his apartment, we detected Kyouhei Hioka’s words along with the past words of his younger sister, Kaoru Hioka.”
I nodded at Touko-san, then sent a fleeting glance toward the roof of Yagokoro High School.
“–Having learned that fact, I deduced that the police officer Shirou Konno shot could only have been Kyouhei Hioka. In addition, I believe that the revolver Shirou Konno possessed was the one Kyouhei Hioka used in the murder of Miyuki Midorikawa, called Uzume.”
If we investigated the revolver, which had been taken back to the station, it would be simple to determine to whom it belonged. If it was Kyouhei Hioka’s, the probability that the one Shirou Konno had shot was Kyouhei Hioka rose even higher.
“On the roof, you intended to shoot Shirou Konno from the beginning, regardless of my involvement. As to why, it’s because Shirou Konno was Sarutahiko and, you, Touko Aoi-san, are Kagu-tsuchi.”
Touko-san immediately shook her head at my words.
“It’s true that I shot Shirou Konno. In the end, that also means I shot Sarutahiko of the ‘Five Togakushi Judges’. However, isn’t it a bit much to decide I’m Kagu-tsuchi just because I shot that one person?”
This time, it was my turn to shake my head.
“No, if my reasoning is correct, the one who killed Alex Brown, known as Tajikarao, and Osamu Haida, known as Omoikane – that was also you, Touko-san.”
“O-Oi, Naoto, isn’t that impossible no matter how you look at it?”
As expected, Sousei-san couldn’t keep quiet, and he spoke up.
“Setting aside that Haida bastard, you remember what kind of guy Alex Brown was, right? Touko’s strong, even if she’s a woman. She’s so good at hand-to-hand a normal man wouldn’t stand a chance against her. But he was an ex-soldier, even if he went bad. Even I couldn’t bring him down in one hit, you know?”
There was no way I could forget. He possessed both rock-like muscles over his entire body and a keenness that would not be expected from his bulky appearance, and our pursuit had ended in failure as a result of his extraordinary physical strength.
“It’s impossible no matter how you look at it. And that bastard had a survival knife with him, didn’t he? Look at Touko. Does she look like she’s hurt to you? Who the hell would believe she could take down that ex-soldier bastard in such a short time without even getting hurt?”
“...It’s just as you say, Sousei-san.”
I nodded at Sousei-san. Touko-san was as beautiful as usual. Even though she had been involved in a fight, there was not a single scratch on her skin. Of course, there was also no indication that she was hiding an injury beneath her clothing.
“So then why! What’s your basis for saying Touko killed those two?”
I understood Sousei-san’s impulse to yell. Normally, I myself would have thought the words leaving my mouth to be impossible. Even so, I could not divert my thoughts.
As for why, there was a “basis” for it.
“...You remember, don’t you, Sousei-san? At the place where Alex Brown, known as Tajikarao, was murdered, there was something extremely interesting in the past conversation between him and the criminal.”
Though I noticed a deep crease appear in Sousei-san’s brow, I did not wait for his reply before stating the answer.
“You? Kill me? Ha! See the difference between my body and yours? You think you can win?”
“...Yeah, now that you mention it, there was something like that. But what about it? Didn’t we decide he was talking about Kyouhei Hioka?”
That was how we had interpreted it when we thought Kyouhei Hioka was alive. Coming from Alex Brown, who had a large physique even among men, anyone would appear to be small.
“Then, what if the line just now was actually referring to Touko-san? Upon seeing a woman like Touko-san, wouldn’t he feel that he was being made a fool of?”
Touko-san was tall for a woman, but from Alex Brown’s perspective, she was just like a child.
“Well, I get what you’re saying, but that’s not nearly enough to convince me Touko took out the ex-soldier bastard.”
“Of course. In the end, this theory is lacking the most important piece of evidence to support the idea that Touko-san killed Alex Brown.”
“Then hurry up and pull out that conclusive evidence. If I still don’t agree with you after you explain, you’d better be prepared, Naoto.”
Sousei-san was as irritated as if he were the one being accused. I gave Touko-san a fleeting look. It seemed she was leaving this to Sousei-san and closely watching our exchange.
Her expression was as calm as ever. How would it change as a result of what was about to occur?
“Sousei-san, do you know that Touko-san is a Persona user?”
“Yeah, of course! How long do you think Touko and I’ve know each other!?”
“Then you know the specific details of her ability?”
“Are you mocking me? ‘Course I know! It’s ‘Precognition’!”
“With that in mind, we’ll return to Alex Brown’s murder. Sousei-san, you said before, ‘Even I couldn’t bring him down in one hit, you know?’ You also said, ‘Who the hell would believe she could take down that ex-soldier bastard in such a short time without even getting hurt?’”
“Yeah, I did! What’s so weird about that? There’s nothing wrong with it, right?”
“No. I think so too. Sousei-san, you always have a way of bringing things to light.”
When I readily acknowledged that, Sousei-san blinked repeatedly as if dubious.
“Then don’t you think it’s strange? That Kyouhei Hioka was able to kill Alex Brown without injury?”
Sousei-san was taken aback at my question.
“From the investigation files, we know that Kyouhei Hioka was very much an excellent detective. He was extremely proficient at the martial arts. That was why I believed until now that he was able to kill Alex Brown. However, like you said, Sousei-san, that is impossible.”
Our approach to the case until now was completely based upon the assumption that Kyouhei Hioka was alive. Now that that had been overturned, we could seek a new approach.
“There was an overwhelming difference in physique, and yet the culprit murdered an armed ex-legionnaire without sustaining any wounds. Thinking this way would be mistaken. Kyouhei Hioka may have been strong, but I do not think he could have been stronger than Sousei Kurogami, a robot. Sousei-san, even you do not believe Alex Brown would have been an easy opponent; that the same would hold true for Kyouhei Hioka goes without saying.”
“...Hmph, that’s true, but it’s not impossible that Kyouhei Hioka got lucky and killed Alex Brown without getting hurt, right?”
“Yes, it’s possible. However, in the end it’s only a possibility. Moreover, I have to say that the probability would be considerably low. Would he really take such a risk? If Kyouhei Hioka were Kagu-tsuchi, his goal would be revenge against the ‘Five Togakushi Judges’. That revenge is to consign to oblivion all five members of the ‘Five Togakushi Judges’ – Kagu-tsuchi would not allow himself to fail with Tajikarao.”
“...No, I get it. Yeah. Your explanation’s right, Naoto. But that’s only why you think Kyouhei Hioka didn’t kill Alex Brown, you know? That doesn’t mean Touko killed Alex Brown. Actually, if it was impossible for Kyouhei Hioka, it would be even more impossible for a woman like Touko, right? How ‘bout it?”
Sousei-san was even more irritated, and I firmly denied his claim. “No.
“Touko-san was able to murder Alex Brown without sustaining injury exactly because she was herself. Furthermore, no one but Touko-san would have been able to kill him without being hurt.”
In that moment, I gazed at Touko-san.
“Because Touko-san is a Persona user.”
Touko-san looked at me quietly. It was a profound look, like that of a mother watching over her child as she grew to adulthood.
“...Ah! Ahh… With ‘Precognition’... Is that what you’re saying…?”
Sousei-san’s eyes widened in shock and his voice shook. I nodded firmly. “Yes.”
“Probability doesn’t matter to Touko-san, who can see ten minutes into the future. That’s because she already knows the result. If she just acts in accordance with a set future, she will not make a mistake.”
Differences in gender and physique did not matter. If Touko-san successfully saw herself ten minutes into the future, nothing was impossible, no matter how high the risk, stringent the defense, or limited the timespan.
“According to Tsuge-san – Touko-san’s ‘Precognition’ is never wrong. Her predictions are one hundred percent accurate.”
Sousei-san gazed, dumbfounded, into empty space, and covered his face with both hands.
“In other words, if there is anyone who, like this time, could accomplish this crime without anyone realizing, it is the person who is on the front lines at the scene, who is in command, and who always has the latest information on the investigation, as well as being able to see the future with the power of her Persona – I believe it could be no one but Touko-san.”
I pressed my point; this was the moment of truth.
“I had my doubts from the moment I was involved with this case. ‘There’s a case even Touko Aoi can’t solve?’ At first, it seemed only a minor detail, but thinking about it now causes me a great deal of unease.”
“...Are you serious?” The words Sousei-san let out were like a moan. He knew well what Touko-san was capable of.
Thinking back, Sousei-san had also said, “Kyouhei Hioka hasn’t been caught even though that Touko’s chasing after him, so he’s gotta be pretty good. I’m not being sarcastic, I really mean it.”
“...It seems like the two of you have pretty high opinions of me, huh?”
The corners of Touko-san’s lips twisted upward self-deprecatingly.
“That’s a foolish question. I respect you more than anyone.”
Just as Touko-san had said she trusted me more than anyone.
I worked as a detective while hiding the fact that I was a woman. Ever since the first time I saw Touko-san, who even as a woman worked more energetically at the scene than anyone, I found her to be radiant. I wanted to be like that someday. I wanted to behave confidently like her, when I became more comfortable with myself as a grown woman. I strongly felt that way.
“At first… I thought Kyouhei Hioka must be so skilled you couldn’t catch him, Touko-san. As he was your senpai and your ex-lover, I believed there was a good chance he might be anticipating your actions. However, in truth that was not the case. No matter how capable you were, apprehending Kyouhei Hioka was impossible.”
Touko-san let out a small breath and let her eyelids fall shut.
“That is because no one can apprehend someone who has already passed on.”
I forced out my words.
“...Touko-san, please turn yourself in.”
Right now, the only thing I could do for her was prevent her from committing any more sins.
“Did you not mean to carry on the will of Kyouhei Hioka, who was shot by Shirou Konno, and murder all the members of the ‘Five Togakushi Judges’? Will you stop? You should know better than anyone the futility of seeking revenge.”
–Even if they were avenged, the dead would not return. Those were the words Touko-san herself had told Kyouhei Hioka in an attempt to persuade him.
Suddenly, Touko-san hit me lightly on the chest with her hand.
“...No matter how you look at it, your deductive powers and analytical ability as a detective, and the way you used your Persona’s ability, were magnificent. You’ve grown, Naoto.”
Touko-san laughed, not at all flustered.
It seemed Touko-san really had seen “the future where I revealed her to be the criminal”. That was why she remained so calm.
In the next instant, I was the one who became flustered.
“That’s right, it’s as you say, Naoto – I am Kagu-tsuchi.”
Touko-san’s eyes were open and perfectly guileless, and I was overtaken by despair.
“...But you know. It’s too bad, but I can’t give you full marks.”
Touko-san’s eyes were just like that of an upright and honest person.
“Naoto, I acknowledge that your claims are logical and persuasive enough, but as it stands, you have nothing but circumstantial evidence, and you didn’t even touch on something essential, my ‘motive’.”
Her eyes were as calm as they always were during an investigation, not worked up and not very worried.
“I wonder why that is… Naoto, isn’t it because you have no proof of my motive?”
I was unable to respond. She was right on target.
“All I’ll say is that it’s not to carry on Kyouhei’s will, like you said before.”
Touko-san watched me silently for a moment, but finally, she grinned, turned on her heel, and began walking toward the gate.
“Where are you going!?”
“...Where, you ask? Isn’t it obvious? I’m going to finish the last part of my job.”
–The last part of her job referred to bringing down Futodama, the last surviving member of the “Five Togakushi Judges”.
“Please! Don’t act like this!”
“Impossible. Naoto, you know I hate pointless things. If I stop after coming this far, everything I’ve done up until now will have been a waste.”
“W- Please stop! If you don’t stop, I’ll report to the station right now that Touko Aoi is the true criminal!”
I pulled out my smartphone and prepared myself to push the call button at any time. However, Touko-san did not even slow down her pace.
“–Have you realized, Naoto? That your voice is shaking?”
In truth, the hand that held my phone was also shaking.
My duty as a detective. My personal feelings toward Touko-san. Torn between two warring forces, I was at a complete loss for what to do.
“...Right, right, finding out my ‘motive’ will be your homework. Is that okay?”
As she spoke, Touko-san began to run quickly.
She was getting away. Even if I had to force her, I had to stop Touko-san. I sent a glance at the person beside me for help. He was at a loss for words. It was the first time I had seen him like that. Sousei-san was standing stock still as if dumbfounded. His powerless figure was just like that of a lost child abandoned by his mother.
At the very least, I would rush after Touko-san. However, it did not take more than a few seconds before I realized that it was meaningless.
I thought she would head outside the school grounds, but for some reason, Touko-san had not gone through the school gates. Inexplicably, she had used the iron fence beside the main gate and had easily climbed up to the top of the gateposts.
Before my perplexed gaze, Touko-san leapt from the gateposts, which were over three meters high, toward the road beyond the main gate. With a fearless smile lingering on her profile, Touko-san disappeared into the shadows of the gatepost.
Why? There was only the ground waiting where Touko-san had jumped. I was confused, when suddenly the sound of an engine reached my ears. Thinking it couldn’t be the case, I ran toward the gate and stepped out onto the road. Touko-san should have been there, but she was nowhere to be found. There was only a large semi, disappearing into the distance.
In the next moment, my eyes were the ones that widened in surprise. Somehow, Touko-san had landed on the canopy above the cargo bed of a truck that had coincidentally passed by.
“...No, it’s not coincidence… It was according to her plans…”
In my line of sight, Touko-san was in the cargo bed of the truck, waving her hand slightly, and behind her emerged the awe-inspiring “Kushinada-Hime”.
My conviction left a bad taste in my mouth. I would not be able to catch her, even in a simple game of tag. Even if Sousei-san were in the same mental state as usual and I gave chase on his bike form, she could see the future, and I would be unable to catch up at all.
Frustrated and feeling worthless, I hit the iron fence with my fist with all my might. The dull sound echoed emptily in the silence in front of the gate.
The nightmare did not end there. When we returned to the police station, we were dealt another shocking blow.
At the same time as our return to the station, we received information that there was a post from “Futodama”, the last of the “Five Togakushi Judges”, on the“Midnight Site”’s Reverse Chat.
It seemed that Futodama had not posted on the chat until now because he had been overseas for several weeks. When he had at last connected to the Internet, he was greatly shaken by the circumstances he found himself in, and negotiations went surprisingly smoothly. We obtained the contact information for Futodama, real name “Tohru Momochi”.
However, that was where the trouble began. The investigator in charge of negotiations with Futodama had immediately sent Tohru Momochi’s contact information to someone, namely the person in charge of crime scene investigation, Touko Aoi.
At the time, Touko-san had warned, “It’s possible that Kyouhei Hioka has an accomplice within the investigation team, so keep Futodama’s specific contact details confidential unless you receive my approval.”
Then why did that investigator tell me? It seemed an exception had been made and Touko-san had told him, “I’ll approve Naoto Shirogane only.”
When I asked when he had contacted Touko-san, it had been when the forensics team was on the roof, in the middle of inspecting the scene.
That meant Touko-san had already obtained Futodama’s contact details when I approached her, asking, “Are you Kagu-tsuchi?” In other words, Touko-san’s next destination was unmistakably to seek Futodama.
I explained the situation to the male detectives who were Touko’s subordinates, and immediately, all the investigators at the station assembled on the Special Forensics Division floor. There, I told them. Touko Aoi was Kagu-tsuchi, she herself had admitted it, and the reason she had fled. The investigators all wore expressions that said they had difficulty believing me. There were even those among them who flew into a rage, demanding what right someone like this detective had to suspect their own Touko Aoi.
“Please let me call Futodama’s phone number!” I proposed.
It was a nightmarish reality, but all I could do was ask the investigators and try to persuade them.
“Oh, if you want Tohru-sama, he went out about thirty minutes ago under the supervision of a beautiful woman, Touko Aoi-san.”
The police officers on the floor were abuzz at this reply from a woman who claimed to be a servant of the Momochi house.
“...Hm, where did they go? I don’t know. Tohru-sama doesn’t appreciate us servants prying into his business. Sir and Madam are currently overseas on a business trip, but is there anything else I may do for you?”
After the call ended, the floor quieted down again. The atmosphere was like that of a funeral.
Misery at first Kyouhei Hioka’s, then Touko Aoi’s, betrayals, and deep despair, precisely because we knew Touko Aoi’s capabilities well.
Touko-san had completely done us in, all by herself.