Part 31: Gathering Information
05/28 (MON), Evening
After classes end for the day, I head out of school with the intention of going home. However, once I reach the gate, I notice Naomi leaning against the wall with her eyes cast down. She doesn't seem to have noticed me, so I call out to her.
Oh, Rinka... I was waiting for you, actually.
You were? What happened with preparations for the culture festival?
I told you about how we hadn't decided on interior decorations this morning, right? Well, there are other issues... Our budget won't allow for us to buy lots of coffee mugs and plating, so we decided to use plastic cups. That's why we thought it would be best to at least make sure the coasters and such are nice and cute.
So... would you mind going with me to shop for them? Only if you have the time, of course.
Budget probably isn't their only issue. I doubt they have enough people to wash mugs one by one. It's probably best that they stick to disposable plastic ones anyway, what with all the hygenic issues to consider at such events. I happen to know a place that has exactly what she needs, so I don't see any harm in taking her there. I won't see Miharu until later tonight anyway, so it'll be fine as long as I keep track of the time.
Sure, I don't mind. You should have messaged me instead of waiting like this, though.
I didn't want you to feel like you had to cancel any other plans, so... if you're busy, then please do prioritize that...
She trails off, drawing her eyes away from me. It's my fault that she's acting this way around me, so I can't exactly brush her off.
C'mon, you don't need to worry about that. I know a good place in Shibuya, so let's head there.
All right! Thank you very much!
With that, we make our way to the station.
After we finish our shopping trip in Shibuya, we hop on the train to head home. At Shinjuku, we have a little downtime while we wait for our transfer to arrive.
Again, thank you so much, Rinka! I didn't expect to leave there with so much!
Hey, glad I could help.
Naomi struggled to make a decision in the store, so she ended up picking three different items for each category. Her plan is to show them to the rest of the class and then decide on which to use.
I gotta hand it to you, you're killing it as the class rep. Color me impressed.
Not at all... I'm only doing it because no one else volunteered.
Which is why I'm so impressed with how seriously you're taking it.
She must've felt her face burn a bright red, as she diverts her gaze from me immediately. From what I've heard, its ounds like she's getting along with her classmates, as well. I wouldn't be surprised if her taking charge of the culture festival played a part in that. Considering how scared of me she was when we first met, she's definitely come a long way. I guess that makes her the exact opposite of me.
Just as we're about to get on the train, she stabs me with a sharp glare. And then she leans in and whispers...
BGM: A Dot on a Piece of Paper
Look. Over there.
She motions towards someone in the distance with enough subtlety to prevent bringing us any undue attention.
That silver haired person seems... suspicious...
Silver hair? Let's see... Oh, her!
My shoulders stiffen the moment I spot her. Her train hasn't arrived yet, so...
Naomi, you head back first.
Just a moment. Judging by your reaction, I assume that's another participant? I do recall you mentioning there being two children.
Numerals IV and X, to be precise. Sonya's been eliminated, which leaves only Numeral IV. I happen to have her cause of death card, but other than that, I don't know a single thing about her. I'd chalk up her appearance here as a coincidence, but that'd probably be a mistake. Not only have Sonya and Alan turned up in Shinjuku, but now she has, too. There's gotta be a reason. The foggy spots in my mind, memories regarding my cause of death and what Parca explained at our initial meeting, are likely linked to the same reason. I shouldn't waste my time trying to figure that out right now, though.
-ka, are you listening?
Sorry. Got lost in thought. How do you know her, anyway?
I'm not sure why, but he seems familiar for some reason... Plus, I had a rough image of what he'd look like based off your descript- Wait, 'her'? Isn't that a boy?
Hmm, you think? Looks awfully feminine to me. Er, haven't we had this conversation before?
Either way, their gender isn't the point here... They haven't noticed us yet, so... we should tail them now, while we have the chance.
The tone of her voice matches the serious expression on her face.
The more information you can get your hands on, the bett- Oh, sorry... I shouldn't butt in like this anymore...
Don't worry about it. I was just thinking the same thing, to be honest. I asked that you head home first because I was gonna do it on my own. Sorry for being unclear.
Her gaze falls to the floor and, after a moment of consideration, she nods.
I'm well aware of the dangers involved, so I'll do as I'm told. But... remember that I'm always willing to help. If you manage to snap a picture of them, I can use that to do my own research from home.
Just hearing that is relief enough. Thanks.
Be careful, okay...?
I respond with a firm nod before we part ways.
I apologize to her under my breath after we split up. Next, I pick up my pace to keep the girl in sight.
BGM: Intel Investigation Underway
After thirty minutes of tailing her, we finally reach what seems to be her destination. Upon leaving Shinjuku station, she takes the Chuo line all the way to a residential district. Judging by her familiarity with the area, she must live around here. She certainly doesn't look Japanese, but there aren't any hotels around here. That means she probably isn't here on holiday with her family, unlike Sonya. That leaves only one alternative. It's hardly surprising, though. Lots of foreigners live in this area.
Okay, here we go.
She stops in front of and then makes her way into one of the houses. Seems like a pretty old place. Older than the houses around it, anyway. Another thing that makes it stick out is how... run-down it is. A decent earthquake could probably shake it down with ease. I'm hardly a pro when it comes to tailing people, but I think it's safe to say that I wasn't noticed. There's no need for me to escalate things yet, so I check out the name plate at the entrance after making sure she's gone inside. It's a bit faded, but not enough to make it illegible.
Safe to say that's the surname of this house's owner. Does the same apply to her, though? My instinct says no. In fact, it's entirely possible that she's squatting at an empty home for some temporary lodging. Ducking behind the wall of the house next door, I try to eavesdrop on any conversations going on. Lucky for me, I'm able to hear something. Nothing specific, but the walls are thin enough to leak out the voices from inside.
Sounds like there are at least two people inside. One is likely the girl, but the other sounds like an old man. I'd guess that the latter owns this place. Which means the girl is probably staying with his permission. I wonder... does my card book work with conversations involving someone who isn't a participant? Considering I was able to hold a converation with that one tourist before I even knew anything about Divine Selection, it's probably safe to assume it does.
I should head back...
It's my best option for now, especially when I can't make out exactly what they're saying. Just as I am about to walk away, a passerby starts talking to me. She's in her early forties and is carrying a bag from the supermarket. I assume she was out buying things for dinner.
Local Housewife: Oh? Are you an acquaintance of Mr. Ushizuka?
N-Not quite, no...
I am taken aback at first, but she might know something about that girl if she lives in the area.
When did that foreign child start living here?
Local Housewife: Oh-ho. I see that's caught your attention as well.
Her face twists into a sly grin in addition to her response. I know her type. That's the exact same expression made by the kids at school when they gossip about others.
Local Housewife: No one's certain why, but at some point he just... cut off ties with the outside world. He rarely leaves the house, so for a time, rumors kept spreading about how he'd starved himself to death. But then we'd notice him lurking around and carried on with our lives.
Local Housewife: Doesn't help that cases of old folks dying all alone are on the rise, too. But anyone, people first noticed that girl around a month or so back. Rumor has it that there are some... dubious circumstances between them. In fact, some say that he used to frequent certain illicit establishments, and that's his child... Oh, goodness me! I shouldn't be telling a young lady such things.
That's funny. The look on her face practically screams that she wants to keep going.
So no one knows who she really is?
Local Housewife: That's right. All sorts of bad rumors surround that man, including his nefarious deeds abroad, so no one wants to get too involved. Of course, nobody wants to risk earning his wrath by reporting him to the police, either. I've even heard rumors about how the girl has some sort of illness, which is even more reason for folks to keep their noses clean. You're probably best off not getting involved, either.
Thank you for the concern.
Just listening to her gab on and on has pissed me off. I won't judge anyone for hazarding a guess about something, but using it as an excuse to spread unsavory rumors about him feels wrong. Plenty of older people live by themselves, so why would they make comments at his expense about it? Having given her my thanks, I use it as an excuse of my own to cut the conversation off there. My hunch seems to have been on the mark, at least. I might be able to find something out about that girl if I talk to him.
I should head home for now, though. I've still got the store to attend to.
I make sure to message Naomi on the train home. I assume she's worried about me, all things considered. No point giving an in-depth report, so I just text a quick summary. It doesn't take long for her to reply, telling me to get in touch if I need help. She said something similar when we split up, too.
Something's definitelly suspicious about the situation between those two...
I'm curious about her thoughts on the matter, but that would just invite the same gossip as that lady. Instead, I simply reply with an, It's all good., to which she responds with an emoji. I need to handle this on my own. It's down to me to gather as much info as I can.