Hyouka:Volume 4 Those Who Know Something
Story 4 - Those Who Know Something
Suppose that one day, I took a microphone and said, "Today will be sunny." Someone who heard me might think, "I guess Oreki Houtarou-kun is testing his microphone." But another person might think, "Oreki Houtarou-kun is broadly asserting that today will be sunny." Whichever deduction is valid, whichever deduction matches the truth, can only be said to be a matter of luck. To increase the chances of that, one would have to gather as much detailed data as possible, but usually it would be absolutely impossible to expect such information to fall into one's hands. Furthermore, even if one managed to collect data that goes into the minutest details, all that would achieve is a higher possibility for truth and theory to coincide, and nothing more.
It was the first day of November. Only Chitanda and I were present in the clubroom. It was that time after class in autumn when idleness flows around, when one does not give a thought about the dangerous, disturbing occurrences in the world like arson, robbery, counterfeit notes and assassinations. With my energy-conserving principle, for me to talk on and on indignantly just to make a point is uncharacteristic of me and can be attributed to Chitanda trying to praise me for my role in the Hyouka incident.
From her words, it was as if I had within me some sort of special ability to deduce the truth all the time. I don't mind being looked down upon and laughed at, but I can't ignore being praised highly. I added,
"To conclude, I don't mind if you call me lucky, but please stop making me out to be an amazing person."
Knowing my extremely gently and reticent personality, Chitanda was taken aback by my rare outburst and her eyes widened. But before long, she nodded and smiled gently, as if she understood my feelings.
"You're so modest, Oreki-san!"
Nope, she didn't understand at all.
It's been almost half a year since we entered Kamiyama High School. Since then, Chitanda's curiosity has found the abnormal in the everyday scenery with just one glance. It is certainly true that I've been involved in helping Chitanda understand the reasons behind those abnormalities. It would be a lie to say that I did nothing for the Hyouka incident and the Empress incident. Also, unbeknownst to Chitanda, I did a little work behind the scenes of the Juumoji incident.
But it would be best to set things straight right now.
"Chitanda, the ancients said some wise words."
"What did they say?"
"'Theory and ointment will stick to anything.' Admittedly, ointment doesn't exactly stick on every surface, but that has nothing to do with the matter at hand."
I said seriously, but for some reason Chitanda elegantly hid her mouth with her hand and giggled. She turned to me as I felt a little morose.
"Oreki-san occasionally says phrases that are never used."
... Is that so? I hadn't noticed.
"But that's not the issue here," I wanted to reply, but Chitanda continued with a smile still on her face.
"I'm not sure why you would want to use that phrase, but... Ah, I get it. Let's assume that the reason you managed to find the truth so many times was not talent, but luck.
"But wouldn't you call the ability to reason out theories, or the ability to apply a plaster to bridge the gap between clues a talent in itself? Even if a sowed seed bears fruit due to luck, it would not be worth considering if the seed was not sowed in the first place."
I folded my arms and groaned. There was indeed reason behind her argument.
But I would not admit defeat that easily.
"So you're saying that I'm an expert in affixing plasters?"
"Is that wrong?"
I responded to Chitanda's gentle smile with the most composed one I could manage.
"Yes, sometimes I have no inkling of the logic behind my theories, myself."
My statement was immediately countered.
"That's because you don't use ordinary reasoning."
That's kind of true, but... I felt a little disheartened at being identified time and again with that trait.
But I firmly stood my ground.
"Then how about this, Chitanda. Come up with some sort of situation. I'll prove that you can't make a theory for anything so easily."
I haven't called for a contest against anyone before, but I can't back out now, when my life's at stake.
Chitanda's large eyes widened even more. Based on my observations of Chitanda thus far, it was mainly because of her immense curiosity about the game I proposed, rather than her amusement towards the situation.
"That sounds fun! Then... what should we go with?"
It was when those eyes were wandering around, searching for a question.
The speaker that was fixed on the top of the blackboard and used for schoolwide announcements crackled into life. Our eyes turned to look at it at the same time.
Without any preface, the announcement started.
"Anyone who, on October 31st, shopped at Koubundou in front of the station and who knows something, report to Shibazaki in the Staff Room immediately."
It was spoken somewhat rapidly. The announcement was then cut off without hesitation.
We dropped our gaze from the speaker at the same time.
"I wonder what that was about."
I said, while noticing that Chitanda's mouth was beginning to open and her head was slightly tilted. I thought that she seemed happy about something and predicted what she would say next. As expected, she spoke in a lively tone.
"Let's use that announcement! Please come up with a theory about what that announcement just now was about!"
I arrogantly nodded.
"Fine, I accept your challenge."
I'll show you just what an untrustworthy guy I am!
"Let's write it down so that we don't forget."
As soon as I finished my sentence, Chitanda retrieved a notebook from her bag. She then took out a ballpoint pen designed to look like a fountain pen and flipped the notebook to a blank page.
"Anyone who, on October 31st, shopped at Koubundou in front of the station and who knows something, report to Shibazaki in the Staff Room immediately."
Chitanda's memory was scary. That was probably the announcement word for word. After writing it out in her elegant handwriting that could be used as a model for penmanship, Chitanda put the pen down, while I looked at the note and folded my arms.
"First, I need to know what everything means. Do you know what 'Koubundou' is?"
"The announcement mentioned that it's in front of the station, but to be more accurate it's a short distance away from the station. It's a small stationery shop that is run by an elderly couple and has been there for a long time."
"Have you gone there before?"
"Yes, but only once."
I was thinking about my own question, and realized that I haven't gone to a stationery shop recently, since it's easier to get stationery from a bookshop or convenience store nowadays. However, there would still be shops that specialize in selling stationery, I suppose.
"Does it sell any special stationery, like expensive paintbrushes, or that strange sheet that Ibara uses for drawing manga?"
"That would be a screen tone... But no, it's a really small store, so it would not have such unusual goods. North Elementary is nearby, so it sells everything an elementary school student would need."
I looked at the words on the notebook again.
"Is Shibazaki a teacher here?"
"Oreki-san, have you always been bad with names? Shibazaki-sensei is a head teacher here."
Ah, now I remember hearing that name at the opening ceremony. There was a head teacher with almost no hair and another with an abundance of white hair, but I don't know which one is Shibazaki. Well, I guess it doesn't really matter.
Right, now there should be no more unknown words. "If I don't have to do it, don't do it. If I have to do it, make it quick." I subscribe to this idle life philosophy, but this is an important contest. I'll need to put some energy into this.
I examined the notebook for another ten seconds, then slowly opened my mouth.
"We known that Shibazaki is trying to call a student."
A forced smile formed on Chitanda's face, as if she was trying to laugh at a boring joke.
"Yes. I can see that too."
Her words seemed to indicate that she was trying to be patient, so I justified my thoroughness."
"This is a contest. I have to be careful about this."
I then continued.
"Let's call this person 'Student X'."
"... This feels like a real investigation!"
"At this point, we don't know if Student X refers to singular or multiple students."
If multiple students were being called, the person giving the announcement would have said "Everyone who shopped at Koubundou" or "Those who shopped at Koubundou", but that's quite a weak argument.
But my next deduction could not be doubted.
"Shibazaki probably intends to give Student X educational guidance. In other words, he's going to scold them for some reason."
On hearing that, Chitanda titled her head and stared fixedly at the words on the notebook. After a while, she looked up and tilted her head once more in doubt.
"Why do you say that?"
I answered confidently.
"Because a student will only get called to the staff room for something bad, based on my experience."
"Oreki-san...are you really taking this seriously?"
"I haven't been this serious since I entered this school. You might even say that this is the first time I've been so serious."
Chitanda sank into silence, so I added,
"Furthermore, if he wanted to commend them, he wouldn't use a phrase like 'Anyone who shopped at Koubundou and who knows something', which can refer to a good or bad thing. He would be more direct about it. No student would feel good being called out like that, myself included. The way he worded it, anyone who did know something might be too scared to go."
"That sounds right."
She agreed, huh. I was half-joking when I said that, though.
Time to move on.
I chased the thoughts around my head and arranged them in order.
"By saying 'Koubundou in front of the station', it indicates that Koubundou isn't a very well known store."
"Well, you didn't know it too."
"Yes, but X should known Koubundou. There's no need to intentionally say the phrase 'in front of the station'."
However, Chitanda promptly responded.
"That is because there are three stores with the name Koubundou in Kamiyama City. Besides the stationery shop in front of the station, there is also a shop selling Buddhist altar equipment near Kamiyama Commercial High School, as well as a bookstore by the highway."
Is that so.
What else, I thought as I folded my arms, lowered my chin, and stared at the words again. A groaning sound filled the back of my throat.
What would a normal school announcement be like? Obviously, it would clearly state the name of the student being called out, but what else is missing? As I thought along those lines, I was struck by a flash of inspiration.
"Whatever this student is being called for, it's urgent. Shibazaki's in a hurry."
Using a ballpoint pen, Chitanda pointed at the word "immediately" on the transcript.
"He did say 'immediately'."
"No, they always say that when they call someone. That's not what I meant."
I continued as Chitanda stared in puzzlement.
"There's a standard format for school announcements, but this one was done differently, so we know they're in a rush."
"Let's say you wanted to call me to Classroom 1-A. How would you say it?"
Chitanda thought for a short while, then brought her hand near her mouth and cleared her throat.
"I see. It would be something like this. 'Oreki Houtarou-san from Class 1-B, please see Chitanda Eru in Classroom 1-A immediately."
"That's all? Weren't there other announcements today other than the one earlier? Try remembering how they went."
Chitanda closed her mouth tightly and thought for a moment. Judging from the continual tilting of her head, I expected that she would take a while to comprehend, so I divulged the answer, thinking that I should hurry.
"I'd say it like this: 'Chitanda Eru from Class 1-A, please see Oreki Houtarou in Classroom 1-B immediately."
"What's the difference?"
"I repeat. Chitanda Eru from Class 1-A, please see Oreki Houtarou in Classroom 1-B immediately."
A gasp escaped from Chitanda's mouth.
"It's not only for school announcements. Most announcements like this are usually repeated, because there's a high chance that they will be missed if they are only said once. However, this announcement was only read once. Since this differs from the usual format, we can say that they're in a rush."
Chitanda nodded grandly, indicating that she fully accepted that reasoning.
Having made the point that the announcer was in a hurry, I kept having the strange feeling of chess pieces falling one after another. Instead of finding out what that strange feeling meant, I went with the flow and continued with my deduction.
"And not just any rush. We can tell that this is an emergency."
"What do you mean?"
I suddenly realized that Chitanda and I were both leaning forward too much. Sensing the proximity of those huge eyes, I retreated and settled down.
"Because this announcement was made after school."
Chitanda, who was leaning forward, pouted in dissatisfaction.
"Please don't skip the steps in your reasoning."
"Skip! What a lovely ring to it!"
Hmm, that went badly. Chitanda was now looking at me with upturned eyes.
Well, it wasn't exactly my intention to skip the reasoning. I just felt that I would forget the points that I had thought of if I didn't first state the conclusion. In any case, I should probably proceed with the explanation of my reasoning rather than account for my speech pattern. Imitating Chitanda, I cleared my throat.
"Doesn't that make sense? Regardless of the circumstances, it's inefficient to make an announcement after school. Kamiyama High does have a lot of clubs, but not all students stay in school and exert their energy on club activities. There is a considerable number of students who go home immediately after school. A normal announcement should be made at a time when all students can be assumed to be present, like during lunch break, or the time before and after home room. But they still made the announcement, after school, because..."
I stopped talking and thought for a while.
"Firstly, the reason behind calling out the student occurred after school. Furthermore, it's so important that they can't wait for tomorrow to do it. To exaggerate, Shibazaki made the announcement, betting on the possibility that X hadn't gone home yet."
As I spoke, I realized that my expression had stiffened. Chitanda had been smiling due to her enjoyment of the game, but her smile had disappeared, while her eyes were now filled with seriousness.
Chitanda spoke in a soft voice.
"Oreki-san... This smells like quina, doesn't it?"
"...Chitanda, the common phrase is 'smells fishy'."
"Eh? I can't say that it smells like quina? It's the plant that quinine is made of."
"The language council will get angry if you go around mixing up phrases like that."
I laughed it off with a Satoshi-style joke, but I was actually thinking the same thing as Chitanda. This game seemed to be heading in an ominous direction.
As I thought about this, another strange point appeared.
"Next deduction. Shibazaki doesn't want to make public whatever he wants to talk to X about. We can't tell if it's only for now, or if it'll never be publicly known."
"Because he didn't say why X was called out?"
That's certainly a way to look at it.
But here was a chance for me to show off.
"That's true, but there's another way to explain it more clearly."
Chitanda stared sharply at the note, as if that would dispel all her doubts. Since Chitanda's facial features were more gentle, unlike Ibara's, her look wasn't so intense, but it was still with a force that seemed like it could cut through paper. However, I poured cold water on her excitement.
"You won't find anything just by staring at the words. Or rather, there's something, although it doesn't seem like it."
"No, I don't get it."
I nodded at Chitanda, who had raised her head.
"Shibazaki is the head teacher. There would be one in every high school across the country, but educational guidance would be the job of the Student Counseling Department, even for Kamiyama High."
"That's true. Morishita-sensei usually makes these kinds of announcements."
"The Student Counseling Department would have their own Counseling Room, right?"
"Yes, it's on the second floor of the main building."
Chitanda followed up spontaneously, probably trying to speed up the discussion. Being taken in by that reaction, I started speaking a little quicker.
"But X was called by the head teacher Shibazaki to the staff room. Isn't that an act that exceeds his authority? The head teacher, who should be in charge of the management of the school, bypassed the Student Counseling Department and called the student to go directly to him. This means that the problem is major enough that they need to keep it classified at an administrative level."
At least, it could be. The whole Student Counseling Department could have collectively collapsed to food poisoning or something, but we can ignore these special cases. After all, if we start considering that those involved in the incident were hit by unthinkable coincidences or that they had eccentric behavior, we might as well just declare that aliens are somehow connected. It would be best to assume that everyone in this case were normal human beings.
I temporarily closed my mouth.
In the silence that followed, Chitanda nodded a few times, probably ruminating on the discussion so far. After a while, she looked into my eyes.
With a stifled voice, Chitanda muttered.
"If we assume your theory is correct, that would mean that X-san is involved in something very bad..."
"You might as well say it clearly."
"The conclusion drawn from the other deductions thus far: X is involved in a crime."
X is involved in a crime.
I laughed at the improbability of my own words, and regained my composure.
That's right, what I'm doing with Chitanda right now is just a game. My theory doesn't have to be true, and anyway, didn't I agree to do this to prove that my deductions do not always match reality? I guess I'll just take it easy.
Perhaps noticing that my emotions had settled, Chitanda also seemed to be more relaxed. With a calm voice, she asked,
"So what might this crime be?"
I held out my hand to stop Chitanda.
"Wait. Before we get to that, I have an additional deduction. Assuming that all theories thus far have been sound, there are no police at this school, so there's a high chance that a related official is here."
"An organization related to the police?"
"There are many of them, like the District Public Prosecutor Office's Special Investigation Department, and the National Tax Agency. The high chance of someone from one of these organizations being here is because of something we touched on earlier... Do you know what it is?"
Chitanda's gaze fell to the ground as she wondered about it for a while, but she eventually gave up and shook her head. Seeing that, I nodded lightly.
"I believe it was near the end of our discussion about calling out someone after school. No matter how you look at it, it's illogical to make an announcement after school, when many students have gone home. But they still made the announcement, so as mentioned earlier, it was because the reason for the announcement happened after school."
I unfolded my arms and pointed at a phrase in the notebook.
"However, if a crime did occur, it happened on the 31st of October. Yet the announcement was made today, just now, and in a hurry. We can take this to mean that the investigators only just made the request."
"But they could also have made the request over the phone."
"That might be true, but it should be safe to assume that the investigators want to apprehend X. To do that, they would need to come here in person."
Chitanda muttered with an anxious look on her face. Did she just regain her emotions after cooling down a few moments ago? It certainly wouldn't be impossible for Chitanda...
Chitanda asked with that worried expression,
"Oreki-san, do you mean to say that you think X-san is responsible for the crime?"
I couldn't understand the purpose of that question.
"What do you mean by 'responsible'?"
"I mean, do you think that X-san is not a victim or an eyewitness, but someone who is involved with the culprit?"
I answered immediately.
"If that's not the case, Shibazaki wouldn't have needed to be so flustered. He could have made the announcement the next day, when everyone was present, right?"
Chitanda nodded reluctantly.
Right, time for the crux of the mystery. Just like how both of us had looked up at the speakers at the same time, we looked down at the notebook in unison.
"So, what is that crime?
"Exactly what crime did X, who 'on October 31st, shopped at Koubundou in front of the station and knows something', commit? What do you think, Chitanda? Does anything come to mind?"
Chitanda placed her index finger on her lip and immediately answered.
"Sadly, I would have to say that shoplifting comes to mind first."
Who or what is she even feeling sad for?
"Or... another possibility would be that the crime was committed at a completely different place, and the investigators learned of someone fitting the culprit's description shopping at Koubundou. Based on that testimony, they came here to search. In that case, the crime could be... just about anything."
Hmm, quite an interesting theory given the little time she had.
However, I shook my head.
"Besides shoplifting, none of the others are possible."
"If we take your theory to be true, the investigators would know the particular characteristics of X. With that information, it would be strange for Shibazaki to call for someone who 'shopped at Koubundou and knows something'. Since the incident occured at Koubundou, we can assume that X appeared to be shopping..."
As I said that, I felt that something was out of place.
As I tried to pinpoint the source of that feeling, I abruptly shut my mouth. Noticing my countenance, Chitanda also waited silently.
Was that announcement a message to the culprit to turn themselves in? No, that doesn't feel quite right.
"Theory: The investigators don't know anything about X."
"That's what you have been saying, right?"
"But they believe that X will reveal themselves after the announcement."
That's it, that's the part which is out of place.
If I were the culprit and I heard that announcement, I would be thinking along these lines: "The investigators still don't know I did it! I might be able to get away with it at this rate!" I would not appear in front of Shibazaki saying I did it.
What kind of circumstances would make the culprit turn themselves in after hearing that announcement?
I scratched my head lightly. I rested my chin on my hands and looked down at the notebook.
If someone felt remorse for their crime, they might turn themselves in. But in that case, X would have been caught already. There would be no need for today's announcement. What does that mean?
A sound escaped from my lips.
"Did you think of something?"
I did not answer, but instead looked at my watch. It was an exceptional product with both an analog and a digital display, as well as a calendar function, but these kinds of watches aren't rare nowadays.
"Let's put aside the question of what crime X committed for now. But let's assume that X regretted whatever they did, and apologized for it. In a letter."
Chitanda widened her eyes at the sudden logical leap. With a raised voice, she asked,
"W-Why do you say that? Did you really get that from the announcement just now?"
I countered with a question of my own.
"Chitanda, what's the date today?"
Chitanda was taken by surprise, but she didn't hesitate for long.
"It's the 1st of November."
I was aware that it was the first day of November, having just confirmed it with my watch.
I then pointed at the words on the notebook.
"Isn't yesterday 'October 31st', then?"
Chitanda tilted her head.
"Yes, that is true, but..."
"Didn't you notice? I didn't realize it until just now, but don't you find it strange? Why didn't Shibazaki say 'yesterday, at Koubundou in front of the station' instead?"
Chitanda gasped in surprise.
"Now that you mention it, it does seem unnatural."
"Why would he say 'October 31st', rather than 'yesterday'? That's because he had some script in front of him which contained the words 'October 31st', and he just read right off it.
"Now, what about the script? Why did the investigators know that X is involved, yet know nothing about them? Why did they believe that X would show up if they made the announcement? To phrase it differently, why did they think that X regrets what they did?"
I took a deep breath and paused for a while.
"Because X wrote a letter to Koubundou apologizing for what they did. It would be something like this: 'I'm really sorry, but on October 31st, I shopped at your store and committed a crime.' It would be unacceptable for a high school student to simply apologize, so it probably continued like this: 'I'll repay the damages, so please accept this and that.'
"The owners of Koubundou took that letter to the police. The police, or some similar investigation unit, came to Kamiyama High with the letter. This happened not long ago. And then Shibazaki, in a hurry, made the announcement while reading the letter. As he looked at the text, he said, 'On October 31st, shopped at Koubundou in front of the station and who knows something'..."
"Wait a moment!"
A sharp voice broke through.
"According to your theory, X-san wanted to apologize to Koubundou, but didn't want to have the police involved if possible, right?"
Giving the letter of apology was not only to show remorse, but also to settle things quietly. I nodded.
"If that's the case, they would not have admitted that they were a Kamiyama High School student in their letter. It's strange that the police would know that. On the other hand, if they do not, they would have to request for announcements from all high school in Kamiyama City, and Shibazaki-sensei would not have been so rushed in his announcement. If there is the possibility that X is in another school, he would feel more at ease."
I see. That was sharp of her. I thought for a while.
"The police probably asked the owners of Koubundou if they might have any idea who did it. The owners then answered that it was probably a Kamiyama High student."
"...But how did they know?"
"It'd be obvious if X were wearing our uniform. Also, since you can get stationery at convenience stores nowadays, I don't think there would be a large crowd of people at Koubundou. Additionally, if X had done anything conspicuous at the time, the owners would naturally recall it."
I closed my mouth.
This part may be the key to figuring out exactly what crime X committed. In order to organize my thinking, I said my thoughts aloud.
"X did something to make themselves stand out. But that in itself wasn't a crime. They then committed a crime. But it was something that the owners wouldn't have immediately noticed if not for the letter. X regretted what they did. It was a deplorable crime. And whatever they did was enough to get the attention of the investigators. The crime X committed was..."
I glanced at Chitanda. Her white throat moved as she swallowed in apprehension.
"The crime was on a higher scale than petty theft."
"And that is?"
Time to press on.
I looked away from Chitanda's throat and looked at the part of the note which said, "Anyone who, on October 31st, shopped at Koubundou in front of the station and knows something".
X was buying something. That has already been established.
At the same time, he was doing something conspicuous and was also committing a crime.
Koubundou carries equipment for elementary school students, so they probably don't have anything valuable.
That reminds me, the newspapers were crammed with disturbing reports of crimes, as usual. There was arson, robbery, murder, and...
I sighed deeply.
One high school student entered the shop that sells stationery to elementary school students in his free time. He placed a cheap item on the counter somewhat hesitatingly and took out a 10,000-yen note, thereby drawing attention to himself.
"X used a counterfeit 10,000-yen note to pay for his goods."
Chitanda, who had kept silent and had not stirred an inch after my words, suddenly piped up. She then started talking on and on, her spell of silence having been broken with that one word.
"But but but that's impossible! It's unrealistic! It's illogical! This is a failure! A catastrophe!"
Seeing Chitanda's extreme vigor and sensing that she might just leap out of her seat and strangle me, I drew back my chair and retreated.
I stopped Chitanda with a hand gesture, while thinking that that was probably similar to calming down a violent bull.
"Ch-chitanda, please calm down. Ah that's right! I just remembered! This is just a game, right? You won't get anything out of it by being so serious."
"But it's impossible!"
Hmm. She used the word "impossible", instead of "unbelievable"?
I narrowed my eyes and asked Chitanda.
"What do you mean by impossible?"
Chitanda had both her hands on the table and was leaning over it, but she returned to her original position and coughed slightly, as if embarrassed by her own actions. She put on her usual expression and spoke.
"The counterfeit bills that have been used are 10,000-yen bills. You concluded that X-san used a 10,000-yen bill based on that news, right?"
"But there is no way X-san, a high school student, could have gotten their hands on one! Or even if they did, they should have been able to exchange it!"
"What do you mean?"
That was actually quite slow of me. I have no idea why I even asked Chitanda that question. Chitanda's face showed a flicker of irritation, but she continued.
"How did X-san, a high school student who does not sell anything, get hold of the counterfeit bill?"
I answered without giving it much thought.
"From an ATM, I suppose."
"It's no easy feat to forge bills good enough to trick an ATM or a bank! And if they were that good, it would be unusual for X-san to notice."
"Perhaps he received it as change?"
After saying that, I shut my mouth, taken aback by my own stupidity. I was fortunate that Ibara wasn't here. Who knows what mean things she would say about me? Since Chitanda was not Ibara, she looked at me and smiled instead of criticizing me.
"Exactly. It seems that you have realized. A 10,000-yen bill cannot be given as change. Apart from commemorative coin, the 10,000-yen bill is the largest bill in our country."
I finally understood why I asked Chitanda that question.
How did X get hold of that fake currency for him to be able to use it? A counterfeit bill is one made by an unlicensed source, and is made to be used in shops. When it does, it shouldn't be handed over to customers, and even if it's passed in between shops, it would eventually go to the bank. That's where it stops.
With furrowed eyebrows, I nodded by a few degrees.
"Well, I get what you're trying to say. Even if X's father ran a business, received a fake bill and gave it to X as pocket money..."
Satisfied, Chitanda nodded.
"X-san would have told their father. They would have asked their father to exchange the bill."
Kamiyama High prohibits her students from working part-time, but even if X did do it, that doesn't change anything. If X received their payment by bank transfer, there is no possibility of them even touching the fake note. On the other hand, if X received the money physically, they should have been able to request for an exchange, given that the employer is not overly unjust. Just like for the possibility of Student Counseling Department collectively collapsing due to food poisoning, I did not really consider the case for X's employer or father being so cruel as to reject that request, because that would be too nonsensical.
"Perhaps they picked it up?"
"Picked it up? You mean that the fake note was left on the road?"
"The forgers might have disposed of it to get rid of the evidence, for example."
It was quite an absurd theory, but only in its basis, and I didn't really care too much.
However, Chitanda shook her head.
"That would also be unlikely."
I was about to ask why, when I realized something strange.
Assuming that X went to school on both days, he would have delivered the note to Koubundou sometime between the end of yesterday's school day and the start of school today. Even if he didn't, the time frame for the delivery of the note would be from yesterday morning to today's announcement. The time taken for both cases is way too short.
X felt guilty while he was using the counterfeit bill. If not, he probably wouldn't have regretted his crime and apologized so quickly. It certainly wouldn't be possible for someone who uses a fake note he just picked up on an elderly couple to earn some small change.
"Hmm. The method of obtaining the bill, huh..."
If you don't figure that out, your whole theory would be like a tower built on sand."
Hey, you mentioned that I say rarely used phrases, but aren't you just the same?"
Even as I laugh it off, I have to appreciate Chitanda's focus. It might be a small thing, but as they say, a little leak will sink a great ship. How did X get hold of the fake note, and why did he have to use it?
Or is the theory that I've built up completely wrong, as Chitanda is saying?
A murmur escaped from my lips.
"10,000 yen, huh."
That's definitely not that large a sum of money that people would dream about it. But then again, it's also an amount that one would regret losing.
... I see. It's an amount that one would give up only with painful reluctance. I folded my arms.
"Chitanda, do you like money?"
Chitanda was a little flustered by the question, but she still answered.
"Yes, I suppose. I'll have to say that I like it rather than hate it."
"Would you be troubled over throwing away 10,000 yen?"
"I don't think so."
As if this was an important matter, Chitanda drew closer and added solemnly,
"... But only if it were not from an illegitimate source."
You sure are protected, Chitanda. People have killed for less, even in Japan.
But even as I thought this, I could understand what Chitanda was saying. If the 10,000 yen was rightfully mine, I definitely wouldn't want to lose it. If I did accidentally misplace it, I would even clean out the drains in the city in an attempt to find it. But if it were "illegitimate money", or in other words if it was money that was picked up, stolen, or earned from gambling, I would probably give it up as easy money. As they say, "Ill-gotten gains are soon spent."
That can be the only reason why X felt guilty and yet still used the counterfeit bill. He did not want to waste his own money. In that case, that 10,000 yen was not from an illegitimate source. Also, X is not a forger, or the accomplice of one. If that's the case...
"As I thought, X received the bill from someone."
Chitanda, who was staring at the notebook, looked up.
"And they received it as rightful money. If they did not get it as a salary or allowance, then there's only one possibility... It was given back to them in return for money they had previously lent.
"I'm sure X felt troubled after realizing that the money received was fake. They probably thought something like 'It was my money so why did this happen?' In any case, you can't really blame them for feeling guilty while wanting to use it at a shop run by an elderly couple."
As I finished, Chitanda placed her fist near her mouth and thought for a while. She eventually put down her fist and nodded, but she suddenly shook her head as she thought of something.
"But that doesn't change anything! X-san should still have been able to exchange the fake note!"
I replied calmly.
"Really? The counterfeit bill is like the Joker in Old Maid. No one wants to be holding it. In that case, I'd say this situation fits:
"'Yo X, here's the money I borrowed from you the other day.'
"'Ah, Y-senpai? Thank you very much. You could have returned the money later, though.'
"'It was 10,000 yen, right? Here.'
"But to their surprise it turned out to be fake."
Chitanda didn't even grin at my solo act. Feeling awkward, I continued.
"Y, whom X lent the money to, was someone higher in social standing. That's why they couldn't object when Y gave them back a counterfeit. X could have noticed right after receiving the money, but Y could easily feign ignorance. Thus X got hold of the fake note under these circumstances."
I crossed my legs and continued.
"There was still the question of whether X is a single person or a group of people, but based on all this, we can say that X is only one person. It would be far too unnatural for two or three high schoolers to buy cheap stationery with a 10,000-yen bill together."
Chitanda still remained silent, making me wonder if she was actually listening.
There's still one more point that should be examined, I thought as I spoke.
"... So what about Y?"
"Y got hold of the counterfeit bill. Perhaps he got it from a Z higher up on the social ladder. But at some point it would have to return to the forger, a shop or the bank, as intended. We can group everyone above Y into Y as well, and then we have the question: Who is Y? An unscrupulous shopkeeper? The forgers themselves?
"In the messy trail caused by the counterfeit notes, the only way out was to turn to a lone high schooler who fell to a sudden impulse. The police got involved with X in order to trace where the bill came from."
I sighed deeply and shrugged jokingly.
"That concludes my deduction."
I noticed that Chitanda was deeply seated in her chair, which was quite strange. Her palms were resting on her knees, her back was straightened, and she had a blank expression on her face. She was probably shocked by the conclusion, or tired out from the game.
But even so, I spent all that time and effort talking, and she doesn't say a word? How mean. I left Chitanda to her sullen silence and gazed out the window at Kamiyama City, where the color of autumn had begun to show. Since Kamiyama Station is somewhere over there, Koubundou should be in that area too, right?
Chitanda's muttering reached my eyes as I stood there.
"'Anyone who, on October 31st, shopped at Koubundou in front of the station and who knows something, please report to Shibazaki in the Staff Room immediately.'"
She then spoke earnestly as I turned around.
"We've certainly come a long way from this."
I smiled and stretched.
"It's game over, then."
Chitanda raised her eyebrows at the word "game". Focus returned to her eyes.
Chitanda's head tilted slightly.
"What? This is just a game, you don't need to take it seriously."
"No, that's not it, but if that was a game, I have the feeling that you started it to prove something... What was it again?"
Now that I think of it, I did want to do something like that.
I also tilted my head, to about the same angle as Chitanda's. After school, at the Geography Lecture Room, two people shrugged together.
"What was it?"
"It you can't remember, there's no reason I would."
"... Then how about we try to deduce what that was?"
Chitanda's lips had slackened, and while her large eyes were equipped with seriousness, I could see that she was smiling. Ah, whatever. I smiled the largest smile I could manage and spoke.
"Oh, give me a break."
The next day.
As I flipped to the third page of the newspapers, this article caught my eye.
"Caught for Possession of Counterfeit Currency"
The subheading read,
"23-year old gang member first to be arrested in a series of incidents, Kamiyama Police reports."
I believe we started that game yesterday because of some maxim. Both Chitanda and I completely forgot about it as we were so caught up with the game, but now I remember what is was.
That was "A horse comes from a gourd", right?
... Yeah, I think so.
Well, for memory to match the truth, one will need a lot more than pure luck, I suppose.
Translator's Notes and References
- ↑ Plaster and ointment have the same pronunciation in Japanese.
- ↑ If you're interested, the name of the Buddhist equipment shop is written as 広聞堂 and the name of the bookstore is written as 光文堂.
- ↑ The phrase "smells fishy" in Japanese is きな臭い. きな means quina and 臭い means smelly. Chitanda's mistake was that she split the phrase into the two parts.
- ↑ 10,000 yen is roughly worth 80 USD
- ↑ Japanese idiom meaning to reach a wild conclusion.
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