Episode 3 Under the Cherry Blossom Tree…
Several days later.
The sluggish, low clouds covered up the sky from morning onward. Large raindrops fell from the sky.
Meanwhile, Kujou visited the Aida family in Shimotsuma as an investigator, working on Genjirou’s background work.
Masahiko Aida, forty-seven years old.
He had been working at a small sheet-metal plant at a suburb of Shimotsuma for twenty-eight years.
He had a firm body possibly suited for sports and a simple personality.
Walking through the 6-tatami 1 mat sized living room with timeworn tatami mats, Kujou went straight to the point after introducing himself.
“According to our information, Loveho did not have any delinquency history or arrest records. So I want to ask about her relationship with others. How was she at school? ”
“Our Loveho was a girl who was so excellent that she wasn’t like us two at all. What was it… Oh– I remember that she was the vice president of the student council. I heard that she was very popular.”
Masahiko spoke straightforwardly, but with loneliness at the end.
“So she wouldn’t cause people to hate her with her actions, right? From what you have just said, no one would bully her as well.”
“Of course not. If anything like that happened, I would not forgive the bully easily.”
While saying that, Masahiko flexed his arm and slapped his expanded muscles with his other hand.
“Then have you heard from your daughter that she kept in contact or knew the other victims of this series of cases, including Miss Arieru Shimizu, Mr. Jedi Aoki, and Mr. Skull Yamaguchi?”
Kujou set the short account, which included every victim’s picture and name, onto the table.
“Oh, oh, oh! They all have cool names–!!”
A smile appeared on Masahiko’ face as he became entranced by it.
“Ah– But I don’t know them at all. Oh! I remembered something.”
He took the papers and slowly stood up.
“I’ll ask Maya to take a look at it.”
“Ms. Maya? Oh. Is she your wife?”
“Oh, right! She is such a beautiful woman. Mr. Kujou, do you want to meet her? Hmm?”
“Ah, no. I appreciate your kindness, but I think your wife must be quite sorrowful at the moment for losing her beloved daughter. I think it’s best for her to have some time to herself.”
Smiling gently, Kujou rejected kindly.
“Oh. Then please wait here for a second.”
After Masahiko had left, Kujou looked around in the living room.
The quiet living room where the subtle sound of rain could be heard had several family pictures of Masahiko, Maya, and Loveho with innocent smiles hanging on the wall.
“Such a friendly family…”
Kujou, who had let out a huge breath and closed his eyes, murmured idly.
“Well– She has no clue. Maya said she had never heard of them from our daughter and she did not know these names.”
“I see. Thank you for going out of your way to ask.”
“No, no, no. I have to apologize. Originally, Maya had to be present as well, but she usually avoids meeting with people. She rejected the interview regarding this case stubbornly. Although I’ve asked her if she wanted to show up since only you was here… Well… As I expected. Losing a beloved child… as a mother… is…”
Although Masahiko was a straightforward person, he noticed the feelings of Maya and spoke with a bitter, apologetic smile.
“That’s totally fine. When other investigators visited the Shimizu family and Aoki family, the wives said that they were not willing to show up. I understand Mrs. Maya’s feelings.”
Saying this, Kujou bowed his head deeply.
“Sorry, police officer. I’m sorry that I wasn’t helpful.”
“No, no. Then, is it okay for me to ask a few more questions?”
After that, Kujou continued asking questions for almost an hour.
Did Loveho have any worries?
Do you recognize the number 1150, which was used in the Twitter username?
Or any ideas on the letters?
How is your relationship with your neighbors?
Are there any witnesses or rumors about suspicious people?
“Even subtle information regarding the offender will be helpful.” Although Kujou had said that repetitively, his endeavor ended fruitlessly.
It continued to rain stronger than before,
After bidding the Aida family farewell, Kujou headed to the next destination quickly.
Located on the west of the Bousou Peninsula, Kisarazu had an iron and steel street made up of the large ironworks gathered in the coastal areas.
Kujou’s destination, the Yamaguchi family household, home of the fourth victim, was located in the countryside of North Kisarazu.
There was a nameplate of Yamaguchi on a small, timeworn, wooden bungalow, which was probably built at the beginning of the Showa period 2.
Probably due to the intensifying wind and rain, there was nobody from the media there or at the Aida family household.
Kujou rang the bell on the door.
However, there was only silence besides the sound of rain.
After confirming that the electricity meter was still operating, Kujou rang the bell again.
However, same as the before, there were no indications of people beyond the door.
About to give up, Kujou rang the bell for the third time.
Immediately after that, there was a loud roar of a woman coming from the other side of the door.
“Stop it!! I actually heard it! I’ve already said that I declined to be interviewed!!”
Perplexed by the sudden trial, Kujou explained his reason slowly over the door.
“Mrs. Yamaguchi, you are home, right? I think you had been told yesterday. I am Kujou, an investigator of the case regarding the corpses under the cherry blossom trees. I came here today because I wanted to ask a few questions.”
“Ah? I made that promise?”
“Didn’t the Police Office of Kisarazu contacted you yesterday？”
“The Police Office of Kisarazu?”
The woman’s voice, which had calmed down slightly, raised up at the end of the sentence as if the woman was contemplating.
Immediately after that, there was a sound of the lock of the entrance being opened and the door slowly opened to the outside.
“Oh, sorry. I completely forgot about it.”
The giant woman who was wearing a gray jersey and holding a one sho bottle 3 of sake said calmly.
Her face, which had no makeup on, had dried tears remaining. Her eyes were very swollen.
From the inside of the widely opened entrance door, an extreme stink of alcohol flowed out to Kujou.
“Sorry for interrupting you when you were resting.”
“That’s okay… I wasn’t resting… Whatever. Isn’t it still raining? Come in.”
Kujou took off his shoes at a corner of the entrance, which had miscellaneous objects placed at, and walked through the squeaky, wooden hallway and the living room with beige carpet.
The women who was holding a bottle of sake sat onto the carpet casually and crossed her legs. “Don!” She placed the one sho bottle of sake onto the table in front of her.
Kujou sat facing her.
When she saw that, she put the sake next to her mouth and drank a mouthful of it. She looked at Kujou with drunken eyes.
“So, who are you?”
“Sorry for forgetting to introduce myself. I am Koushirou Kujou, an investigator.”
“Oh, I see… Erika. I am Erika Yamaguchi.”
“So you are Skull Yamaguchi’ mother?”
“Right.” Erika nodded her head vigorously; she was totally drunk.
“Is your husband home today?”
“He had just left for work two or three days ago. Working on ironwork on that street is like that during busy seasons.”
“I… see. Are you okay with staying by yourself during this time period?”
Erika clicked her tongue.
“It’s not okay. That’s why I am drinking.”
Saying that, Erika drank the sake again.
“…I see… What you mean.”
After understanding Erika’s current status, Kujou murmured to himself as if he agreed.
“Okay, I will not take much of your time. Please answer as many questions as possible. ”
In order to answer the sorrow for a mother losing her child at the age over forty, Kujou asked the same questions regarding the victim’s relationship with his family members, friends, and people from his school and places around him detailedly.
However, the answers were pretty much same as that of Aida family before. The more questions he asked, the more Kujou was able to tell that Skull Yamaguchi was an excellent student and that he was born in a family with good relationships.
When Kujou asked about the Twitter username, she seemed to have no clue at all.
After asking all the questions, Kujou looked at his notes, worried.
Every single child tried their best in studying and clubs; every single one enjoyed their school life with people admiring them.
He could not find any fault about the four victims.
Wait… What if… Something had happened a long time ago…
Although Kujou was stuck, a brand-new possibility might reveal the answer.
“Police, can we stop here?”
Realizing that he was contemplating in other’s house, Kujou turned his face to Erika.
“No, I am sorry. I was thinking about other things…”
“Oh, really. Do it at your home.”
Saying that, Erika stood up and headed to the kitchen.
In order to leave, Kujou stood up as well.
“Mrs. Erika, you are mentally strong.”
Erika answered only with voice, she was searching in her refrigerator.
“Mrs. Maya from the Aida family and the wives from the other two families were ailing and could not help with the investigation.”
Erika’s hand stopped when she heard that word.
“What had you… just said?”
“They could not help with the investigation…”
“I’m not asking for that. The name! What was her name!?”
When Erika heard the name “Maya,” she turned her face around in a hurry.
“Ma… ya… Maya… You mean Maya Urakawa!?”
“No, not her. She is Maya Aida, the wife from the Aida family.”
Although Erika was thrown into a panic, after she realized that it was her misunderstanding, she continued searching in the refrigerator as if nothing had happened.
Kujou stared at her so that he would not miss a single movement of her. He left the Yamaguchi family with a satisfied smile.
At the time when Kujou got onto a train in order to return to the detective agency, the sun had already set and the windows of the train reflected the darkness of outside, which was lacking street lights. From the sound of rain dropping onto the window, he could tell that the rain had become stronger than before.
Since it was Golden Week, the train was sparsely populated. The guy sitting near him appeared to be a high schooler. He was tapping her phone screen intently.
“… A puzzle game?”
Hearing Kujou’s murmur, that student turned his head to Kujou.
“Do you play this game? If you do, please add me as your friend.”
He was not angry at all even Kujou had interrupted him. He started the conversation casually.
“Ah, no… I am sorry. I don’t play that game. It was just because puzzle games sound very familiar to me.”
That student showed the screen to Kujou, who smiled apologetically, and demonstrated.
“If you use your finger to move the balls with different colors like this, the balls with same the color will stick together and disappear..”
While explaining that, he moved his finger dexterously and eliminated several balls with the same color in a row.
“Hum. You are really good at this.”
The student did not stop explaining to Kujou, who leaked out some admiration in his voice. After recommending Kujou to play the game, he returned to his own world.
When Kujou slightly closed his eyes, inside his eyelids, the balls with different colors moved up and down, sometimes exchanging positions with the balls next to them. An image of a difficult puzzle game being solved easily left a deep impression on him.
It was the time when the balls exchanged positions with the ones to their left and right for several times.
“… I, I see… Exchanging positions.”
At the moment, Kujou had an epiphany. The corners of his mouth became an arc.
Being called so suddenly, the student turned to Kujou with a surprised facial expression.
“Thank you. You helped a lot.”
Saying that, Kujou smiled.
1. 6-tatami mat sized – approximately 9.93 m2.↩
2. Showa period – From December 25, 1926 to January 7, 1989.↩
3. One sho bottle – a glass bottle that contains liquids in Japan. Its volume is about 1,800 mL.↩