Looking at Kei-chan from a distance, who is fidgeting with her heels up and down in the cake waiting line, Shiratori-san quietly opens her mouth.
「King, I don't mind explaining, but if I tell you the truth, it just sounds so stupid」
「Isn't that how it is with most things?」
「Well, yeah... most of the world is stupid」
With her mouth twisted in mockery, Shiratori-san propped her elbows on the table and leaned her face toward mine.
「I'm talking about the uniform of a girl named Hanabusa. It's easy to use that as a clue to solve this situation, but I think it's easier to explain it from the other side」
「Yes, the opposite. It's about what the small villain are up to, what they're messing around with. And――」
Shiratori-san's voice trailed off as she twisted the word "small villain" into a mocking nuance.
「They're trying to bring Nitani down. Everything else is just a stage set. Everyone just involved as a means to an end」
「Asuka Nitani? You mean someone who has a grudge against Nitani is the culprit?」
「I don't know... maybe there's a grudge, maybe not」
「The three second-year students who were mentioned in yesterday's story about the Public Morals Committee ―― Ichida, Nitani, and Mimura ―― I know Ichida and Nitani's names and faces because they're in the next class. Although I have never talked to them. Needless to say, I know Mimura because we are in the same class. Well, she's just a jerk. I don't like it when people say women are rotten, but she's rotten and has some connections」
（I'd like to see a girl who can make Shiratori-san think she's a jerk, though...）
「Of course, I know about Nitani's affiliation with KKO. It seems that she is so excited that she is talking about it all over the place. Of course, I also heard about it from the Fujiwara group. I've also heard about a partnership with a small event company called Frontier Productions」
Hearing that, I couldn't help but widen my eyes.
After all, that partnership was just last night. That's beyond quick hearing.
I had heard about Shiratori-san's involvement in KKO from Lili and Fujiwara-san, but it seems she's more involved than I thought.
「I've looked into it, and Frontier Productions isn't lying about the major airline campaign they're running. It's actually happening」
「Apparently, the airline officials are very interested in Nitani, and they asked Frontier Productions if they could cast her」
「Huh? I heard from Frontier Productions that they were the ones who offered Nitani the job」
「That's a lie. If you look at the proposal, it's about two girls traveling to Scandinavia, and they've cast Nitani and another female celebrity as the partners. It's a talent from another agency, a girl named Sakura Momonoki. Well, I don't really care about that girl」
I can't see what she's saying.
「Why would a major airline ask a small event company like that?」
「You're obsessed with unimportant things... But you're right. To be precise, Frontier Productions is a protégé of that girl Momonoki Sakura's office.」
（I see, that's the agency that approached me for the story...）
「At first, the project itself was exclusive to that agency, with Sakura Momonoki as the main character and another new talent from that agency as a sub, but the client insisted that Nitani be the main character, so the new talent was pushed out」
「Oh? You still don't get it, do you?」
Shiratori-san glared at me.
No, she might have just looked at me.
（She really looks like a civet...）
When I cowered, she let out a sigh and said, "Huh...".
「You know what will happen if Nitani's scandal comes out just after the contract is signed and filming starts, right?」
「With compensation. I'm sure they'll push the compensation to KKO, but if it were me, I'd include a clause in the contract that says what happens in case that happens. I would include a clause in the contract that says the replacement will be left up to the producer」
「You mean they're going to settle for having Sakura Momonoki as the main character and a newcomer as the sub, as originally planned?」
「Well, that's... a bit of a guess」
I can't tell for sure, but I'm probably making a difficult face right now.
I feel like I can't connect the two. I'm caught in such a feeling.
（I understand that they are trying to trick a girl named Nitani in order to get back the job of a talent in their office, but what does that have to do with Hanabusa-san...）
「Are you saying that the reason they targeted Hanabusa-san was to blame Nitani?」
「That's right. That's the final part. I think they were planning to have the perpetrator surrender when everything was ready. .」
「That's just too vague」
「Actually, it's not. Nitani's been bullying this Hanabusa girl. She resented her. She was jealous. That kind of testimony would push Nitani over the edge」
My eyes widen involuntarily.
「But if I had to guess who's the worst, my King, it's you」
I slam my knee under the table and Bang! A loud sound rang out.
Immediately, the lethal stares of the women around me rained down on me at once.
「I hit my knee, a, ahaha. I'm such a clumsy person」
With an empty smile on my face, I said aloud to no one in particular, appealing, "It's nothing".
「Hey...Shiratori-san, don't say anything weird」
I pouted my lips as I told her, and she shrugged her shoulders, not taking offense, "It's true".
「Listen, King. The school is very sensitive right now. If there's even the slightest hint of a scandal, any club can be immediately suspended from competitions, suspended from activities, or even disbanded. I don't have to tell you whose fault that is, do I?」
「Well... it's me, but... What does that have to do with anything?」
「Well, if it wasn't for that situation, none of this would have happened. At present, although it seems that they have no intention to do so, a picture is forming that Nitani and Ichida are bullying a girl named Hanabusa, isn't it? I think Mimura is probably seriously bullying her, though」
「Well, Shibata-san... the Public Morals Committee is investigating on that premise, too」
「The reason it's happening is because this Hanabusa girl insists on wearing the regular uniform to practice, right?」
「You make it sound as if Hanabusa-san is trying to get herself bullied」
「Am I wrong?」
「No, she's not that type」
「Then what type is she?」
Shiratori-san has a face like a cat playing with a mouse. Maybe I'm saying exactly what she wants me to say.
「Haha... Kaitou must have picked Hanabusa because she's that type of girl, but I think he did a terrible thing. To fill the shoes of an absolute ace is too heavy a burden to be borne」
I'm getting frustrated because I can't see what she's talking about. I look at her silently, and Shiratori-san meets my gaze as if challenging me.
「Well, she's so serious and responsible that no matter how unreasonable she gets, she can't see the problem. If I think there's a chance, she'll withdraw from the tournament due to a complaint」
I winced, and she thrust her face into mine as if in pursuit.
「But you know what? Someone must hide all her practice clothes except her uniform. No, they may have already lost all of them and only has the uniforms」
「Wait, wait, wait. Someone can't hide that many. Hanabusa-san would at least take precautions!」
「If it’s me, when she put it in the locker in the club room this morning, I will hide it in a bush on the way to the club room. Or left it with someone else. Not much I can do about it. But I can take as many as I want」
「That's true, Shiratori-san might be able to do it, but Shiratori-san... you are not doing that, right?」
「Just kidding. If it’s me, I wouldn't leave a trail like this. I don't have to go that far to do it too. And although this Hanabusa girl won't sue or make a fuss, theft is a serious misconduct」
In other words, in order to protect the club, Hanabusa-san is taking it easy and putting up with a lot of trouble.
I can't help but bite down on my teeth.
「That's unforgivable... so who's the culprit?」
「Ichida and Mimura are just as guilty when it comes to blaming the scandal. So those two can't be the culprits」
「Yes, I can see that」
「If they can hide Hanabusa girl's clothes that thoroughly, then there's someone nearby, most likely a member of the basketball club in Hanabusa's class. And that person...I'm really just guessing here, but I'd say that person is a sub-talent that Frontier Productions is trying to get into the mix, or someone related to them」
- A new illustration! Saori Moribe -> here