Gekkou:Volume 1 Hesitation

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To my blank amazement, it was not pity that lay in the gazes of most students, but jealousy of their peers.

As soon as Youko Tsukimori appeared at school after her long absence, everyone strove to be around her. In no time at all, a wall akin to a fortress loomed before her.

"Are you okay, Youko-san? Aren't you tired? Don't hesitate to tell me if there's anything I can help you with, okay?"

"Thank you, Chizuru. I feel much better now that I have seen your lovely face. I really should have brought myself to come to school sooner," she put on a brilliant smile and stroked Usami's cheek softly, while Usami was worriedly looking up at her. Tsukimori then took a look at the surrounding people. "My sincere thanks to everyone else as well. I can't express how happy I am... that so many of you have worried about me. I am really lucky to have classmates like you!"

She closed her eyes softly without breaking her smile as she put her hands on her well-rounded bosom.

Tempted by the deep emotion she was showing, they all put on meek expressions and nodded all together.

I almost had to snort upon seeing that Kamogawa and his guys were among them, too, with earnest faces that couldn't have suited them less.

Originally my classmates probably wanted to be the ones that comforted a disheartened Tsukimori, but in fact it turned out the opposite. If someone had taken a photograph of that scene and told me it was Tsukimori comforting her disheartened classmates, I would have believed it.

In other words, Youko Tsukimori could do perfectly without our worthless pity.

Only when she was among masses of people like now, her true value surfaced.

Though everyone wore the same uniform and was the same age, only she was special and stood out from the others, shining almost like the moon in the darkest night: magnificently and full of elegance.

As there was no way to get through the impregnable fortress that was protecting her, I was degraded to a mere "Villager A" who beheld the captivating princess from afar.

From time to time, however, our eyes met.

I can't deny that I found myself not incapable of interpreting her demanding gaze as an appeal to rescue her. But for one thing I would have looked stupid if I was wrong, and for another thing it was unreasonable to voluntarily take such a calorie-consuming action for someone like me who does not care two figs about knightliness. Thus, I slipped out of the uncomfortable classroom and brilliantly fulfilled my role as Villager A by silently watching the clouds through the corridor window until homeroom began.

Even during breaks the situation didn't change.

It didn't take me long to realize that I wouldn't be able to properly talk to her at school for a while, thus I chose to spend my breaks in the quiet corridor, away from the noise.

As a reaction to my quick resignation, clever Tsukimori started to write messages on a quartered report sheet and passed them to me during the breaks because she couldn't talk to me directly.

To prevent the others from noticing, she gave them to me while passing me by without looking at me. She either handed the letters to me or just put them into my pocket.

By the time school was over, five of them had come into my possession.

I laid them out in the order I had received them, starting with the one I had gotten in the first break.

«Why didn't you help me?»

«You know my feelings, don't you?»

«It's been so long since we could talk.»

«I think I will be in the library during lunch break.»

«I forgot how cold-hearted you are.»

She had surely realized that mailing me would have done the job. I sensed a kind of unyielding spirit and pride from the fact that she still chose to stick to those messages.

By the way, I had indulged myself in a midday nap during that lunch break. Because I would have to deal with her at work after school anyway.

Besides, there was still one scrap she had not given me yet, judging from the pattern she used. The "after-school"-message. I had in mind to react after reading that one.

As expected, she let a scrap of paper fall on my desk as she passed me by while cheerfully saying goodbye to her classmates.

A smile escaped my mouth when I read the hastily written message. It was at last a request I couldn't reject, so I quickly packed my bag and left the classroom.

«This day tired me. I don't want to walk. I'll have you take me to the café on your bicycle. In return I'll forgive your behavior today.»

As it seemed, it's not always easy to be in the spotlight. Just watching had annoyed me, so I figured her exhaustion had to be huge.

Since I was satisfied by having gotten her to show a sign of weakness, though only in letters, I was willing to answer the princess' wishes for once and give her a ride.

When I left the school building with such thoughts, my eyes found a tall man near the front gate.

He spotted me immediately and signaled me to come by waving me to him, while "hiding" in the shadow of the gate.

I would have preferred to just feign ignorance, but he wasn't someone that would allow me to ignore him. He would simply pursue me until he had me.

I took out my mobile phone, quickly typed in a message and sent it. I informed Tsukimori that I could not accompany her to the café.

I didn't want to involve her in "that matter". Not out of some sparkling heroism to protect her, but because I considered it a private affair.

A reply returned a few seconds later.

«I don't care about you anymore!»

What speed, considering the number of letters! I could well imagine her pressing the buttons of her phone with a furious wrath at an imperceptible speed.

Even though I felt a little upset as I looked up at the clear blue sky, I had to acknowledge it was my own fault and gave up. After all, it was I who had evaded her that entire day.

It's not like there was a special reason.

I simply hadn't wanted to become one among many.

"Ya! Let's get into my car instead of standing here."

Konan was in a good humor as always.

"What do you want from me this time?"

Therefore I responded purposefully in ill-humor.

"Do I have to tell you?"

"Yes. I have to go to work afterward, so I find myself constrained to refuse if it's useless talk."

"Mh... well, I can surely tell you right now, but it's some really nasty stuff that shouldn't be said at the gate of a school. Still wanna know?" he stressed with a heavily wrinkled brow, giving me the pleasure of bathing in the shocked glances of the surrounding students.

"...Let's just go. Come on."

"Thank you for your ready approval! It's a pleasure to work with you, Nonomiya-kun!"

I saw that staying here would only give birth to bad rumors, so I reluctantly followed him out of the gate.

Konan's car, parked near the school in a side alley, was a bright red sports car that quite suited his style.

"Nice car, huh? Doesn't it have a nice ring to it that I deliberately chose an Audi instead of a Porsche, a Ferrari or an Alfa Romeo? Feel free to think to yourself that an Audi was the limit of my salary as a civil servant, but you mustn't say it."

"Is it okay for a police detective to park on the street?"

I didn't recognize the make of his car, but I very easily recognized the no parking sign right next to the sports car.

"It's okay because I am a police detective. If I hypothetically get a fine for illegal parking, I can just make good use of my position and cover up the misdemeanor."

"What a corrupt world."

"I wonder who made it like this?"

"Deep inside you should know."

"Oh, how philosophic. Too deep for me, so hop in already."

The unaffected expression he showed as he played dumb suited him perfectly. Since I had to admit that, I had no choice but to give in and take a seat.

"—A couple of days ago you explained to me what happened on the day when Youko-chan's mother went missing, remember? At that restaurant."


The second I sat down on the passenger seat, Konan began talking in an earnest voice.

The authority he emitted made it seem as though the air of the car had been compressed in a split second, sending the previously peaceful mood away far away.

"Actually, I've hashed and rehashed it in my mind, but there are some points that just won't make sense to me."

Konan brought down the window and lighted a cigarette from his breast pocket.

"Take the phone call from her mother's workplace. If you ask me, that timing was too good. Don't you think Youko-chan actually made sure that she would get that call when she was together with you?" he blew a stream of smoke out of the window, "Don't you think it's strange that the phone rang precisely the moment she clung to you?"

The scene of that rainy night's crossroads—of the colorful umbrellas—rose into my mind.

"How would she make them call her at a good timing?"

It goes without saying that the timing had caught my attention. However, I did not know how to get someone to make such a convenient call.

"She could have left behind her number in their call history right before hugging you, for an example."

It was an emergency case.

"Considering how pressing the thing was, they may have called her several times already while you were working?"

For the cooking school, one of their teachers was missing without notice and was completely unavailable at that. It's perfectly thinkable that they would have promptly called back any number in their unaccepted call history, even if it was an unknown one.

"However, nobody knew whether she had gotten a call or not. You couldn't find out just by being at the same place," Konan's mouth broke into a grin, "Unless you got in close contact by, say, hugging each other."

I recalled what I had felt that night; the vibration reaching me via her breasts that had been pressed against my chest.

"...indeed, her mobile phone was set to... silent mode."

"That's exactly what I mean. Well, you also mustn't forget that we're dealing with Youko-chan. It's also possible that there was no call in the first place. In other words, she pretended. She acted."


"Have you ever heard of the alarm function?"

"Of course! Do you think I'm a—" I began, but couldn't continue because I realized at once what he was getting at.

Konan went on, "Phones don't only vibrate for incoming calls. The alarm functions lately have become really handy; they keep on vibrating until you execute the predefined operation."

"Would she really do that?" I asked myself silently with several question marks popping up over my head. However, taking only the point of whether it's possible or not into consideration, the answer was clear.

"You can't be sure if it's her, can you?"

I couldn't deny it. I was positive that she could have done it.

"Well, we don't know if she acted or if there really was a call. It's just that your explanation leaves those possibilities open. But either way, it's not relevant. Feel free to forget about it. Her real intention lies somewhere else, after all."

"Her real intention...?"

Konan kept silent, waiting for my next words; probably because he had noticed that I was pondering.

Her primary objective that night, which she was even willing to feign a call for, was—

"—to lure me to her home?"

He snapped his fingers, "Bingo! It makes sense if her goal was to get you to her home. No one would leave someone whose mother has just gone missing. Even someone as dry as you wouldn't. Well, and you did go to her home in the end."

I reconsidered that night with the events Konan pointed out in mind.

—It was as though a crumbled block was reconstructed at a terrific speed. And the newly built block had a completely different shape.

While crushing his cigarette in the ashtray, he continued, "I think you got it. She assigned the task of discovering the suicide note to you."

A cold shiver ran down my back.

If he was right about that, everything that had happened that night had been based on a scenario written by Youko Tsukimori.

"There's another doubtful aspect apart from that. Recall what happened right when you arrived at her home. If I'm not mistaken the first thing she did was getting you a towel to wipe your wet body," he raised his head and looked at me with a razor-sharp gaze, "That's not normal, is it? The first action one would normally take isn't 'getting a towel' but 'finding that mother'!"

Having come to the conclusion that Youko Tsukimori had not killed anyone, I was supposed to deny his opinion, regardless of what it consisted of.

"Indeed, you do have a point. It also stands true, however, that I could clearly sense that nobody was in the house the moment I stepped into the building. I'd say that Tsukimori must have been able to perceive the situation much more clearly than I, the outsider, who'd only come for the second time."

Nevertheless, I was impressed by everything he pointed out.

"You mean that Youko-chan was able to conclude that her mother wasn't there even without searching the house?"

"Yes," I nodded.

"I don't think so," Konan flashed a masterful grin, "But I'm an adult, experienced in the ways of the world and all, you know, so I just can't think as straightly as you do."

Seeing how he was able to conclude so much just with the little information he had, he deserved his title as a detective. He really was an extremely capable person. He made me understand that once more.

I even found myself impatient for more—

"The thing may be that her mother was already dead when you went there, and she knew it. Thus, she wasn't eager to search for her. It's possible to interpret her unnatural behavior in such a way, don't you agree?"


My forced voice was a little hoarse.

"What are you getting at?"

Because I knew exactly what Konan was going to answer.

The instant I averted my eyes from him—his long arm whooshed past my head and his hand landed hard on the the passenger side window.

"Was it over your head? Then I'll be frank with you..."

His sharp features were directly before me as he leaned forward. The stench of smoke assaulted my nose.

"...that girl, Youko Tsukimori, has killed her mother!"

After declaring that, his gaze was drawn towards the front window.

Following him, I also directed my eyes there. Ahead of the straight side alley was the main street, bathed in madder red. One could see students on their way home passing by like fishes swimming.

There was one person that had gotten separated from the bulk, standing still at the opening of the alley.

The silhouette was slender and was long-haired. Due to the backlight the sunset produced, I couldn't make out her face. What I clearly did recognize, however, was that the high school girl over there was gazing at us.

She wasn't approaching us, nor was she walking away; just staring in our direction. That shadow had a terrifically strong presence to it despite just standing there without even interacting with us.

I delved deep into the seat and quickly urged, "...please get us out of here right now."

"Are you sure?" Konan asked with his gaze still on the front window.

"Yes," I answered, whereupon he replied with a stressed "Hmmm?"

The next moment, he switched once to neutral before quickly shifting gears and backing out of the narrow side alley at a breakneck speed. In no time we arrived at the street opposite the female student.

During that I could do nothing but tightly clench my fist.

At first Konan said nothing, but when we came upon a red traffic light, he returned to the topic as if he had been waiting for it.

"I'm sure I don't have to explain to you that she fulfills all necessary prerequisites to fake her mother's suicide note, right?"

I nodded. That was my limit. I didn't know what would come out if I opened my mouth.

"She's a bright girl. She knew that authenticity would rise dramatically if the note was discovered by a third party rather than herself. And she chose you for that part. Well, her plan worked out splendidly since you did find it for her."

I ground my teeth.

"I also think that as a family member she should have had no trouble killing her mother. I mean, let's not even start listing the ways she could have used to take her out! What remained was to go to that forlorn park on the high ground and push her down the cliff."

I was clenching my fist so hard it hurt.

"Child's play for her, right?"

Don't talk big like that! You don't know her as well as I do!—I found myself fighting with the urge to shout out all this.

What compelled me that moment was not impatience anymore but raw anger. Hearing someone else talk about her like that irritated me as if having my garden trampled down by strangers.

Konan pulled the car onto the sidewalk and smiled, "We're here."

I peeked out and found that he had parked along the main street, near the café.

I gave him a nod, "Thank you."

The next moment he put on his usual frivolous smile and shrugged like an American.

"Sorry for startling you. But once in a while I have to show you that I'm still a policeman, a detective, you know," he grinned, but his eyes weren't at all smiling, "And I don't want to cause the misunderstanding that you can hide things from me forever." He pulled me closer by my shoulder, "...I would be very thankful if you could soon recall some interesting info, since that would save me some messy work..."

His emphatic whisper sent a cold shiver down my spine. I guessed that being threatened with a knife pressed against one's neck had to be a similar experience.

I averted my gaze without replying and discovered the reflection of a person in the window.

There was a grim high school boy who didn't move a muscle with the exception of the blinking of his eyes. I noticed that the hand of that student was holding onto his left breast.

I felt a familiar touch with my fingers.

—The murder recipe.

I had strained my hand without noticing it.

It was the one thing I had to protect no matter what.

Because the murder recipe embodied the only point where I had the upper hand over Konan and was my last trump card against Youko Tsukimori.

Mopping the dim café after closing time. Suddenly, a shadow obstructed the course of my mop. I looked up and found the owner of the shadow standing with legs spread and arms crossed.

"Did you have an argument or something?" asked Mirai-san, looking down at me with a deeply wrinkled brow.

"Argument? Who? With whom?"

I wasn't playing dumb. I honestly didn't know.

"Are you dumb? You and Youko of course, who else?"

"I really don't think I'm dumb... but anyway, what gives you that idea?"

"It's pretty damn obvious if anyone looked at you two! You haven't talked at all lately, have you?"

While leaning onto the mop, I thought about it.

"...we haven't?"

I remembered next to nothing of today's work.

"Doesn't surprise me. It was obvious that you were miles away."

Now that she mentioned it, I had to admit that in my thoughts I had been "miles away" with Konan indeed. I had been pondering over a way to surpass that man non-stop during work.

The more I thought about it, the more I came to think that I had no chance of beating him.

"Anyway, leaving that aside since it's nothing new in your case—"



She had no sympathy.

"Let me carry on; this time Youko's acting strange as well. It looks like she's actively avoiding you to me," she thrust out her chin and drew herself up, "So, what have you done to her? Come on, try to explain yourself. At least I'll hear you out."

As usual, she was so stubborn with her opinion that it was refreshing.

"Are you unable to think that I might be the victim?"

"Yeah. I'm on Youko's side whatever happens."

"What an unreasonable world!"

"Ohh, you only noticed just now?" she answered my lamenting words haughtily, "The world's unreasonable and unjust wherever you go; otherwise social stratification would not exist in the first place. So why should I bother playing a saint if the world's very setup is already shit? I live by my own rules."

If you ever tried giving the word "self-centered" a form, you would definitely get this woman in front of you.

"My way of life is simple, isn't it?"

Well, it was simple indeed.

Her rule was just one: getting her will whatever others say. Nothing more.

But I couldn't imagine just how hard it had to be to pull that "nothing more" through. It's not something anyone can do. Not everyone is as strong as she is.

But she carried on playing her guitar without letting the noise of the world interrupt her concert.

There are bound to be some that brand people like her as trouble-makers, as egoists, or even hate them. I agreed insofar that it was a highly justified view.

"...indeed. So simple I'm almost jealous."

To my chagrin, however, I found myself understanding her very well.

I couldn't help but be amused by such a reckless woman who would hold a mike with one hand and show the masses the middle finger with the other. As one of her fans I thought, "One or two like her wouldn't do any harm to the world."

"Okay, you oughta apologize now."

"To you?" I played dumb. Mirai-san smiled, amazed.

"Idiot. No use apologizing to me, is there. You should apologize to the chit-sorting 'princess' who's sneaking peeks at us from over there!" said the "queen" in a loud voice.

I turned around and discovered Tsukimori standing at the register where no one had been at the start of our conversation. Our eyes met.

"It hath come to my ear that Your Highness wisheth for an apology. Is it true?" I asked in a quite sardonic tone, upon which Tsukimori dropped her gaze immediately to her hands.


"Why should I need an apology? We have not at all had an argument with each other, have we?" she answered while sorting one chit after the other.

"Her Highness begs to differ, I fear?"

"Just look, does that look to you like she's not angry at you? She couldn't make it more obvious! Now, come on, I'm bothering to act as a go-between for you, so take action and say you're sorry already."

"Don't worry, Mirai-san. I am not angry in the least. But even if we were in the middle of a quarrel and if I wished for an apology from Nonomiya-kun, there would be no point if he does not feel any guilt. I would still prefer no apology at all over getting an idle one that is not meant by heart," said Tsukimori in one breath.

"'Don't worry'? 'Not angry in the least'?" I was irritated by Tsukimori's indirect and ironic allusions, "If she wants to say something, she should make herself clear, don't you agree, Mirai-san?"

"Now, look at that, Mirai-san. You can't call it a quarrel if Nonomiya-kun is not even aware of what he has done."

"I won't apologize, Mirai-san! She's just getting worked up all on her own."

"Mirai-san, let's not bother with that blockhead anymore."

Suddenly, Mirai-san tousled her fair hair with both hands and...


...shouted from the top of her lungs.

"Hell! Just shut up! You're getting on my nerves!"

The manager and Saruwatari-san cautiously peeked out of the staffroom to check what was going on.

"This! Really! Is! A pain!"

Mirai-san wound her arm around my head and took me into a neck-hold. The soft feeling against my cheek made me realize that there was something womanly about her after all.

She ignored my complaints and proceeded rapidly towards the register while yelling, "Come here!"

Upon arriving there, she stretched out her free arm, as could be expected, and took Tsukimori by the neck in the same manner.

We two, constrained at Mirai-san's side, were forced to face each other from close up whether we wanted or not.

I did not want to see Tsukimori's face in the least, but unfortunately Mirai-san's modest breasts were quite the opposite of her personality and thus obviously insufficient for blocking the view for me.

I may add that she will never hear that from my mouth. Ever.

"You know, I'm really not that patient! I can't stand such a pain anymore! Forget about the remaining work and just get out!"

She yelled down at us, saying things about her temper everybody already knew.

"Nonomiya! You apologize to Youko! And Youko, you forgive him when he does!" she said while scowling at us in turn, "I don't care about the reason behind this quarrel, but make sure you make up with each other on the way to the station! Then you come to work tomorrow as usual! Got it? That's an order!"

Before I knew it, Tsukimori and I were exchanging glances, and a moment later sighing as if on cue.

"Hey, what about your reply!?"

Faced with the overwhelming commands that rained down on us, we exchanged glances once more and had no choice but to nod reluctantly, "...understood."

Solely lit by white street lights, we walked along a narrow alley towards the station. We were silent.

Upon entering the way along the main street , our field of vision was filled with gorgeous neon light. The number of people increased in proportion to the illumination, and so did the noise. The headlights of the cars passing us by made us flare up in yellow. Far away a siren was resounding, whereas in the proximity a dog was raising a forceful bark to fight it back. And we were silent.

Tsukimori was the first to give in to the oppressive air.

She stopped abruptly.

"You have been a little strange lately," she whispered, getting straight to the point, "Is there something bothering you?"

"Do I look that way?" I asked back.

She tilted her neat chin a bit and asked further, "Perhaps it is related to Konan-san?"

I did not remember having spoken about Konan in her presence—

"I have heard he visited the café when I was absent."

—but I figured that there were some things she already knew.

"According to Mirai-san, you two get on well together, just like a couple."

What on earth had Mirai-san told her about us? Not that I wanted to know.

"That's none of your business," I spat out bluntly and averted my gaze from her.

I didn't want to talk about Konan with her.

"But it is!"

I insisted on settling the matter with Konan without her interference.

"I say it's not."

Of course I was aware that she had no way of knowing that I didn't want to drag her in.

"I can't just ignore it!" her eyes suddenly turned serious, "There is nothing about you that's not important to me."

In Tsukimori's wide opened and clear eyes I was reflected with an awfully disinterested face.

Stop it! Don't look at me with such eyes!

While I was not at all in the position to complain to her for insistently probing into a subject I shunned—I was the one of us who wanted to hide his feelings, after all—I gave in to my displeasure and raised my pace.

"I hate insistent women!"

It might have still been forgivable if I had been just acting, but unfortunately I had been simply unable to hide my irritation.

As a matter of fact, I had been quite taxed recently. I was frustrated because I wasn't making progress with Konan. I was pressured because I was unable to find a way to break that deadlock. I was in constant unrest that he might find out about the murder recipe.

And most of all, I felt inferior to her.

Suddenly, Tsukimori pulled my arm from behind, "Come here." She drew me to an old bench near a bus stop and made me sit down. Then she trotted off towards a vending machine a couple of meters away and quickly came back with two cans in her hands.

She put on a smile, "You like 'this', don't you?"

She thrust a cold and wet orange can out to me. I was so taken aback that I completely forgot about my irritation.

...Youko Tsukimori really was not to be underestimated. Apparently she had been all ears to our talk in the classroom.

"If we get into a quarrel here again even though Mirai-san told us to make up, I won't be able to face her tomorrow."

I snatched the juice away from her, opened the lid and took a long gulp of the cool orange-colored liquid.

"We can consider ourselves lucky to have someone that worries so much about us. Don't you agree?"

The sour but refreshing taste of the orange juice soothed my boisterous feelings effectively.

"...It's as you say. I'm sorry."

Tsukimori sat down next to me. "No, please forgive me." Her hair-ends swayed. "I tried being sulky for once," she giggled with her gaze still dropped, "Because you have been giving me the cold shoulder lately."

She brought her face to mine with reproachful eyes.

"Please come to my place again sometime. I promise I won't do anything you don't like anymore, okay?" she said jokingly and laughed, but I couldn't help finding a trace of loneliness in her face. I recalled that she was all alone now.

Tsukimori's house was large; and had to feel even larger without any cohabitants. Various worries crossed my mind.

"...but you've been quite occupied yourself, too, recently."

As a matter of fact, I had gotten my plate much too full with Konan alone to care about Tsukimori, but I felt a little guilty upon seeing her lonely like that.

"Oh yes, because a certain someone did not only refrain from helping me but also ignored me completely, I had no time for recreation at school."

"Well, you have my sympathies."

"I'm sure you aren't joking but really mean it like that..." Tsukimori shrugged her shoulders exaggeratedly along with a small sigh.

Sure enough, I had decided to give priority to the affair with Konan rather than Tsukimori's situation.

"At any rate, I'll try to act normal at the café, so please tell Mirai-san something positive, too," I ended our conversation and stood up.

"—Konan-san and you are like brothers with an age gap," Tsukimori murmured, "Perhaps it was that, supported by the fact that you're two men, that made me feel unhappy and left out."

I sat down again on the bench and peeked at her seemingly brooding face from the side.

"...Konan-san and I are like brothers, you say? Haven't you also compared Mirai-san and me in a similar way?"

"Yes, I have. Now that you say it, all three of you resemble each other. Of course I don't mean your looks by that, you understand?"

"Care to elaborate?"

I was very interested in how I looked in her eyes.

"Let me think... I don't know if it's the right expression to use, but you three somehow resemble each other in your 'way of life'."

"...our way of life, huh."

"I'm sorry that I can't put it clearly."

"No, I think I get what you mean."

'Way of life' was a rather wide term, but if interpreted as something like 'our values', then I had to admit that theirs and mine weren't so different. I was sympathizing with them in many regards.

Tsukimori's opinion was most interesting, which is why I felt inclined to ask more. Especially about Konan.

"Tell me, what do you think about Konan? He's quite a strange guy, don't you agree?"

Tsukimori rested her chin on her hand and meaningfully sighed, "He sure is!"

"You don't look pleased," I stated.

"I don't really like him. I don't feel comfortable when he's around me because I have to be cautious of his attempts to read my character all the time. So it's really tiring to be together with him for too long. I wonder if all detectives are like him?"

She pulled her slender shoulders in as if she were attacked by a cold shiver.

I haven't seen her like this very often. If it's Konan, however, anyone would show a similar reaction. That man was not normal.

"In comparison I would want to be by your side for hours and hours. I wonder why that is?"

She cocked her head and peeked into my face like a little devil.

"Don't ask me," I averted my eyes after deigning her a look, "I don't know about other detectives, but I'm pretty sure he belongs to a very peculiar category. He constantly leads me by the nose. I'm no match for him."

Right. I was at my wit's end. Maybe he had been too strong an opponent for me from the beginning.

"But as a man who resembles him, you should understand Konan-san much better than I do," she said, "Right?" Tsukimori formed her mouth into a crescent moon smile.

My heart skipped a beat.

"Don't you think that he cares more than necessary about you and not me because he likes you? It's normal to feel special about people that seem to understand you," she added.

My heart reacted fiercely to each of her words.

"That's a lie. I have no idea what he thinks."

"Indeed. From time to time I have no idea what you think, either, Nonomiya-kun," she giggled, shaking her hair.

My mind was blurry—the trail felt so near and still I couldn't see it.

"What are you getting at? I fail to comprehend what you want to tell me."

But I was confident that the trail was somewhere ahead.

"Mhh, as I said, you two resemble each other!"

Tsukimori put on a mischievous smile and purred pretentiously.

"No, I've heard that already."

When I gave her an urging look, she shrugged lightly in an uncomfortable manner and finally opened her mouth.

My mind cleared up the very moment her words reached my ears.

"If you want to know what he thinks, just think about what you would do in his place!"

Because we resembled each other. Our trains of thought should resemble as well — She added with a smile.

Without waiting for her to finish speaking, I started thinking.

I matched Konan's actions so far with my own thoughts. What would I do? What would I want to do? Ideas started flooding into my head without end.

"...sorry. There's something I have to do," I told her quickly, pressed 120 Yen into her hand and ran off home. I rushed through the night town without caring about her yell that caught up with me.

I just wanted to be alone. I wanted to be alone and collect my overflowing thoughts.

I hadn't found a clear answer to how I could settle that affair with Konan — I was going to think about that now — but I was on the right trail.

This matter doesn't necessarily have to end with a clear result. And it's not important what the truth behind the incident is. Those were the two things I was sure of.

Why? — Because I thought so.