I don't feel like seeing anyone, but I can't just use the answering machine when my eyes meet someone's.
Therefore, I put on a light cardigan over my pajamas and walked down the stairs and walked out the front door.
Outside the gate, Shiratori-senpai is standing there in her school uniform, looking sullen as usual.
As it is still morning, the school is still in the middle of classes.
「Um... w-what's the matter? Shiratori-senpai」
When I asked her, she acted as if she hadn't heard my question at all.
↓ Continue to Read ↓
↓ Continue to Read ↓
「It's so hot, I'm sure I'll collapse from heat stroke if I stand here like this. I wonder if someone would be kind enough to let me cool off in an air-conditioned room...」
「...Please come in」
「I'm sorry if I sounded like I urged you」
（No matter which way I look at it, you're urging me...）
After swallowing such thoughts, I invited Shiratori-senpai into the house and led her to the living room.
This is not the first time Shiratori-senpai has been in my house.
That being said, she doesn't seem to have any reservations at all, and as if it is her own house, she puts on my brother's slippers without permission, and occupies my brother's place on the sofa.
While I stood in the kitchen turning on the air conditioner, slightly annoyed, she took the remote control and lowered the room temperature.
（I wonder... is Shiratori-senpai such a rude person?）
I think it's because I'm mentally weak, but I feel like I'm being provoked, and it's really irritating.
「...I'll make you some cold barley tea」
「Don't bother, I'll just have a cider or something」
「I'm sorry, Onii-chan and I don't drink much juice」
（Don't be annoyed. Anyway... let's make her cool down quickly and ask her to leave）
With that though, I take out some ice from the freezer and throw it into a mug-sized glass. Then I let out a sigh as I take out a pot of barley tea from the fridge.
（I know she's not a bad person, but it's quite tense being one-on-one with Shiratori-senpai without Sato-chan or Takasago-senpai... Even now, I can't tell what she's thinking at all）
When I poured the pot, the barley tea flowed into the glass sliding on the ice. As I watched the scene, I asked.
「Anyway... what's the matter? The class is still in session, isn't it?」
「Sorry to hear that. I thought Kizuna would be absent today」
I stop pouring the tea.
After that, silence descend and in the glass, the ice clinked.
When I look up, Shiratori-senpai looks back at me too and opens her mouth without moving an eyebrow.
「Are you happy that you've gotten rid of Kobayashi-sensei?」
The sound of the air conditioner's breeze is unusually loud.
Without realizing it, I gulped.
「...Um, what are you talking about? What's wrong with Kobayashi-sensei?」
Then, unusually, an expression other than sullenness appeared on Shiratori-senpai's face. It's like she's making fun of me.
「I'm not trying to trick you, and I don't need to」
I can't keep my cool either.
（I wonder how much she knows...）
I glanced at the table, at the position of the fruit knife, and walked up to Shiratori-senpai, leaving the barley tea still poured.
「Please leave. I'm not feeling well...」
「Well, I understand that. If you're not a psychopath and you're involved in a murder, you'll get sick. It's nothing to be ashamed of」
I felt as if a cold object had been thrown down my spine, and I jerked back.
「P-Please don't make any crazy accusations. Like murder...」
My voice rasped. My breathing becomes erratic. I glance toward the fruit knife again. Shiratori-senpai follows my gaze and lets out an exasperated voice.
↓ Continue to Read ↓
↓ Continue to Read ↓
「Oh... well, even that fruit knife over there is enough to kill me. But is that okay? After all, you've made it this far without getting your hands dirty. Still, all that hard work will be for naught」
「What are you saying?」
「It's easy to kill a man, but it's hard to hide a body. You know, there was that host murder case a few years ago? The killer boiled the body in pipe cleaner until it was completely liquefied and poured it down the drain. And even after all that, he was caught. The silver tooth stuck in the back of the drain was the key」
I avert my eyes from the fruit knife and give her a fake smile.
「I-It's too rude... S-Senpai, you're joking too hard...」
Then Senpai smiled, a rare thin smile, and spoke.
「Yes, I'm joking. I also don't think Kizuna is the kind of person who can kill people」
「Of course not, geez...」
As I let out a sigh of relief, Senpai said in an indifferent tone.
「What you've done is just contract killing... or at least exploitation. Whatever it is, you got in the middle of an exchange and used it. Well, the most you could be charged with is aiding and abetting murder」
I tensed up involuntarily.
（Why? How does she know?）
My teeth are stuck together.
I can't breathe.
I feel like I'll fall to my knees if I'm not careful.
With my eyes on her, Shiratori-senpai proceeded to talk on her own.
「As soon as I found out that it was Kobayashi-sensei who was using Shibata-senpai as a toy, I knew you would do something. Kizuna loves her big brother, after all」
「I... I don't know anything...」
「When you went to tell Kobayashi-sensei's wife, did you think that would be enough? But she seems to have been a very peculiar person. It seems that she was ready to set up a woman who was going to make a move on her husband」
「The other day, you mentioned that I was the one doing it...」
「That's just a guess. I think the first cat that claimed to have been thrown in was owned by his wife. The second and subsequent cats were probably bought from a pet store. After all, it's not easy to catch a cat. Moreover, it is hard to believe that it was a student who solved the problem with money. Pets are expensive. That's why it's very likely that his wife made the whole thing up. Well, keeping a pet to kill it is probably bizarre, but...」
Shiratori-senpai raised a finger in a playful tone.
「Kizuna must have thought. If this continues, Shibata-senpai will be treated as a stalker and a criminal. She'll never get back together with your brother. The source of the problem must be cut at the root! ...right?」
「Please don't falsify what's in people's heads!」
I yell out.
I can't laugh it off because I actually thought so.
「By the way, what Kizuna does... I noticed it when I met you at the aquarium」
I panicked and looked back at my actions. But I don't remember doing anything strange.
「Your bulging wallet. I saw a bunch of identical cards in there. Membership cards for a famous chain of Internet cafes, with no cameras in the stores and lax identity verification, and if you made one card for each store with a fake name, there must have been at least five」
「T-Then... what's wrong with that? I, too, have secret hobbies, you know. I secretly look at erotic things...」
「Anonymously go to five internet cafes and look at erotic stuff? You're an incredibly lewd person. I never thought of that」
With that, Shiratori-senpai twists the edges of her mouth in amusement.
↓ Continue to Read ↓
↓ Continue to Read ↓
「Anyway, I dug into the depths of the net, looking for traces of Kizuna. Well, this one was easy. All I had to do was find Kobayashi-sensei's name. After that, all I had to do was find Kizuna's posts thoroughly and pull up the responses」
「No, that's a false accusation! F-F-First of all! All those places are anonymous, right? So why are you looking for my posts?」
「I know. The way you mark punctuation and break up sentences. Even if you change your choice of words and tone, anyone can tell which post is from the same person. Unless you deliberately disguise that part. Next time, you should be careful to disguise that part as well」
She's bluffing. That's what I thought, but I couldn't speak. Even though the room temperature is getting lower and lower, sweat is beading on my forehead.
「But... you've changed my mind, Kizuna. Honestly, I didn't expect you to be so cunning」
「W-What is it? Please, no more accusations!」
「I didn't think you'd be able to pull off a double homicide... There are countless BBSes out there, but I've picked out a couple of potential double homicides. That's right. Let's say A and B」
Shiratori-senpai gets up from the sofa and pretends to be a university professor giving a lecture.
「You have “A” kill the person “B” wants to kill, in this case a receptionist. You made him kill her. Normally, you would have to kill the person “A” wants to kill, but you left it alone. It looks like you transferred a lot of money as a deposit to get “A” to kill first. Although “A” was pissed off that it wasn't worth it」
I shut my mouth and just stare at Shiratori-senpai.
That's all I could think of.
「Next, you pressured “B” to kill Kobayashi-sensei. He killed him like you wanted. But “B” refused to fulfill the contract. It's quite interesting to see Kizuna's impatient ranting and raving on the BBS. Then, "by chance", I followed your link and "by chance" found an article about a receptionist whom “B” wanted to kill who had been stalked and a transcript of the trial. There is a name of a person who seems to be that person. The name is “Aota Seiji”」
「H... how far you know...」
「Up to here. Up to the point where Kizuna tells him that you know who he is, and tells him when and where the murder will be executed, all the while going out of his way to call you "Sage". And just to make sure that Kobayashi-sensei was absent from school, you came to the murder scene... well, that's how it is」
「What's the proof?」
「In fact, Kizuna left too many traces. I feel sorry for Tachioka. He seems to have found an ally in Fukuoka, but when he comes back, she's a cuckolded and his sister has been sent to a girls' reformatory for abetting murder... there's no hope for him」
The image of my brother sagging down in his sleep flashed through my mind.
I unconsciously clutched the hem of my cardigan and shook my shoulders.
「H-How much... do I have to pay you to keep quiet?」
「Don't get me wrong」
Shiratori-senpai held my shoulders. She held me like a friendly scout on the street.
「I'm not going to sell you to the police. But the Japanese police are very good. Someday they'll get to Kizuna. That's why I'm here, to protect you」
「Yeah, I'll introduce you to someone who can protect you. Of course, you'll have to pay a price, but I'm sure you'll be completely and utterly protected. Your life with Tachioka will continue as before. That is, if you don't change your mind...」