Not many comments on this section, mostly just lol Ai, and if Atlus can translate "onii-chan" as "big bro", so can I. The story starts really picking up in the next part, when the investigation actually starts.
White and Black
. . .
April 1 Yagokoro Police Station Parking Lot
It was several minutes after being delayed by Sousei-san. I had come to the back of the office that had been designated when we parted, but there was no one waiting, and all that was in front of my eyes were a number of police cars and a red sports bike.
I wondered if he had been impatient and gone on to school alone.
I had not meant to make him wait. However, I was caught by the assistant chief as I was leaving the office, so I had given up. I was finally released when I had reluctantly been made to give my autograph, which I had never done before.
“...Can’t he have waited even a few minutes? Honestly, it looks like this will be tough.”
It was right after that.
“–Ah? Isn’t it obvious? I won’t forgive you for making my great self wait even one second!”
I immediately spun around and looked at my surroundings. It was only natural. That had been Sousei-san’s voice, but his body was nowhere to be seen.
“Oi! Naoto! Over here, over here!”
“...Eh?” I couldn’t help the sound of surprise that escaped me. That was because I could hear Sousei-san’s voice coming from the red bike.
In the next moment, I was struck speechless. I was so shocked I couldn’t believe it.
To explain the reason, as I watched the red bike, it changed shape, and the next thing I knew, it had assumed Sousei-san’s form. A bike had transformed into a human figure right in front of my eyes.
“So? Did that surprise you? I’m a ‘transforming robot’! So you see, I’m different from those other robots!”
It was true that I was quite shocked. I, who still loved making plans for intricate devices, said, “...Amazing... That’s amazing! Sousei-san!” and was excited. What in the world were the mechanics behind it?
“I want to take you apart sometime...”
Sousei-san was looking at me dubiously. It seemed like I had somehow inadvertently spoken my true thoughts aloud.
Without thinking, I averted my eyes. I was embarrassed that I had forgotten myself in my excitement.
“...You’re weird. Well, whatever. Anyway, get on.”
The distance was not so great that I would be opposed to going on foot, but because Sousei-san said he would take me to school, I jumped onto Sousei-san, who had once again eagerly turned into a bike.
It was a sports bike characterized by a beautiful streamlined form. It seemed to be a bike meant for racing. If I straddled it, I felt that I myself might become a bike racer, and though we had not yet set off, I found myself lost in daydreams. However, Sousei-san’s words as he continued dragged me back to reality.
“I thought you’re really tiny, but your body’s light too, Naoto. Are you really a guy?”
I wondered if Sousei-san was joking. But he had a point, and so I sighed, “Haa...” and felt upset without much reason.
“Hold on tight!”
Sousei-san started to move. At the same time, my cheeks became hot. Just now, when I became conscious of my gender, the present situation in which I was straddling him between my legs embarrassed me again.
“Well, to be honest I don’t really like letting a guy ride, but you’re my partner so I guess I gotta. You’re special, Naoto! Be grateful to me!”
It was not my intention to hide my gender. It just so happened that I was presenting myself as a male student. That I spoke as I did and conducted myself as a boy was force of habit after many years.
*technically that she calls herself “boku”, but see also English having only one pronoun to refer to oneself.
“...Yes. Um, thank you very much.”
I could not help but feel that I had missed the moment when I should have explained the truth.
Like the downtown school that it was, Yagokoro High School faced the street, and because it was morning, there was a large volume of traffic. That was where the bike came in handy. It nimbly weaved its way through the congested vehicles and arrived in the blink of an eye in front of the main gate.
The towering gate was made of brick. The white iron fences were also of elaborate design. The school building inside was not old but it had a retro design. Much money had gone into every aspect of the building, as was typical of an affluent private school.
–Yagokoro Private High School. It was the only private school in the Yagokoro area, and the number of students in the whole school was about one hundred people in each year, or three hundred students total. It was within the prefecture but was a prominent high school focused on preparing students for university.
It seemed that many students still commuted from the suburbs. Even when I was gazing at the school, students continued to be swallowed into the solemn gate one after another. However, as could be expected, I was the only one of the students in front of the gate who had driven up on a motorbike, and so I stood out immensely.
I briefly thought that this could be bad and was just thinking that we should remove ourselves to a place with fewer people. Sousei-san, whom I had been riding, changed back into human form, causing a stir among the crowd of people going to school.
“Geez, they’re all brats!”
He was drawing attention to himself, but even so, Sousei-san did not care in the slightest. On the other hand, Sousei-san had taken human form without so much as a word to me, so I had fallen on my behind on the asphalt like a cowboy that had made a mistake during a rodeo.
“...Eh? What’s that?” “A r-robot? Is it real?” “Are they filming a movie?” “No, isn’t it the robot the principal was talking about at the school assembly?” “Wha? He said something like that?”
The students were giving Sousei-san sidelong glances and whispering among themselves. It was as if they were meeting an alien creature.
I shook my head at the ring of students around us, keeping their distance. That we had stood out like this from the very beginning made me depressed.
On the way to the staff room, I said:
“Do you understand? Will you behave yourself as much as you can while I’m in class?”
I did not forget to give Sousei-san a warning based on his actions at the gate.
Concerning the presence of the robot called Sousei Kurogami within the school, it seemed that the police’s efforts had secured approval for him from the school. The information the students had been given had been something like “A cutting-edge robot will be visiting to collect data from the classes.”
However, seeing how wary the students were, it could not be said that they really had any understanding of Sousei-san, and if he did as he wanted, the resulting disturbance would be more attention-grabbing than a fire.
“Yeah! Leave it to me! I’ll investigate perfectly until after school!”
My warning did not reach him at all. My head was starting to hurt.
“In any case, you must absolutely not cause a disturbance.”
“You’re really annoying!”
“Do you know whose fault it is that I must be annoying?”
“Huh? Don’t you just have no balls?”
“If there’s any sort of problem, I’ll report it to Touko-san, all right?”
“Hah! What a cowardly shorty, bringing up Touko’s name like that!”
That was the limit of my patience. Something snapped within me at being branded a coward.
“Did you already forget the disturbance you caused at the school gate? If so, you must be unbelievably birdbrained!”
Because I raised my voice, the students inside the classroom glanced at us simultaneously.
“What was that! Who are you calling a birdbrain! You oaf! Want me to shut that cheeky mouth of yours for you?”
Agitated, Sousei-san grabbed and lifted my collar. Unusually, the blood had also rushed to my head, and I matched Sousei-san’s in-my-face glare with one of my own. It was an explosive situation.
It was at that moment. The voice of what sounded like a cute girl echoed down the hall.
“N-no way! Don’t screw with me! Damn, give me a break...”
The moment the girl’s voice reached his ears, Sousei-san became depressed as if the fire in him had completely disappeared.
I glanced in the direction from which the voice had come. “Whoa! Something’s coming!” The students that had come out into the hall jumped back to the walls to the left and right as if making way for Moses with the Ten Commandments.
This was a school hallway. Even so, why was it that I could hear the sound of an engine approaching as if from far away?
The surprising answer came several seconds later. I couldn’t believe my eyes, but what was approaching was not the young girl I had imagined from the sound of the voice – it was a scooter-type motorbike. It was an unmanned bike that closely resembled the famous Italian vespa, but it ran with the brisk sound of the engine echoing through the hallway.
“Big bro! Big bro! Can you do something for me?”
Like a small dog frolicking around its master, the unmanned bike ran in circles around Sousei-san.
“Shut up! Don’t run around me! Take human form if you want to talk!”
“Ah, I forgot.”
Again, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It wasn’t the first time a motorbike had transformed right in front of me, but this time it became a “girl”, so I was unable to remain composed. “Oh!” The students who were peering timidly in our direction also raised their voices in cries of surprise.
“That girl... is a robot...?” “...Isn’t she pretty cute?” “Yeah. So cute...”
As the students’ excitement showed, she was a lovely robot with a beautiful outward appearance.
From the fact that she too was able to transform from a bike, I deduced that she must also be a robot from the same generation as Sousei-san. Most likely she originated from the Kirijo Group. She might also have been a specialized Suppression Weapon. However, she was about half Sousei-san’s size. Her physical appearance also differed from the male Sousei-san’s, as she was a girl who looked to be about twelve human years old.
That beautiful female robot planted her hands on her hips and looked up at Sousei-san.
“Umm, when you finish work, I want you to buy the things on this list from the Junes in front of the station and bring them home.”
“Huh? You should just make Gramps buy it!”
“Sheesh! You always say things like that right away, Big Bro! We’re relying on Uncle Tetsuma, so you and ‘Ai’ should at least do the shopping.”
“Then ‘Ai’ should go. Leave me out of it!”
“It’s impossible for Ai! I’m busy with my chores, so I can’t do it today! That’s why I’m leaving it to you, Big Bro. Ah, I’m out of time, I have to go. Don’t forget to go shopping. Also, don’t cause trouble for other people! Ai is the one who always has to apologize afterward! So be good! Promise!”
The beautiful girl, with her cheeks puffed out, told him in a forceful tone as if for emphasis, suddenly shoved the memo into Sousei-san’s hands, and changed into a bike again.
“Oi! Ai! Wait! Wait up!
“Hey! Get back here!” Sousei-san’s attempts to get her to stop were in vain, as she slipped between the students, and with an energetic speed, disappeared down the hallway.
The mysterious robot girl had arrived and then departed like a shot. I was dumbfounded along with everyone else in the hallway, staring at the direction in which the girl had disappeared. Sousei-san’s shoulders slumped dejectedly.
I asked Sousei-san, and as I thought, that girl was also a specialized Suppression Weapon developed by the Kirijo Group. Looking tired, he answered that her name was “Ai Kurogami” and she was his successor.
The chime that marked the beginning of class resounded through the hallway and we finally came back to ourselves.
“...Er, she’s quite an energetic little sister, isn’t she?”
“...Yeah, uh, sorry about her.”
In the face of the storm called “Ai-chan”, the turbulent seas between us were only a trivial phenomenon.
April 1 Yagokoro High School
It was not the first time I stood in front of a class as a transfer student, but no matter how many times I did, the nervousness that accompanied this moment was not something I could grow accustomed to. At the homeroom teacher’s urging, I introduced myself, but:
“...Starting today, I’ll be relying on you for a while. My name is Naoto Shirogane.”
My words rang a bit hollow. Enduring my embarrassment, I raised my bowed head. When I did, the classroom was perplexingly filled with shouting. In particular, the cheers of the female students flew around the classroom, their lovely voices fiercely calling out “Prince!”, and even at the severe remonstrations of the homeroom teacher, who could not just stand idly and watch, the noise did not quiet down.
It was true that being welcomed was far preferable to being rejected, but I really could not hide my bewilderment at such an overly warm welcome.
“I’m so happy! I’m a fan of yours, Shirogane-kun!”
The girl in the seat next to mine spoke rapidly. “I’m Takizawa!” she introduced herself, and asked with some agitation, “...Is it all right if I get a picture later?”
When I asked, “...Why?”, the girl responded with a dizzying answer. “Huh? You don’t know, Shirogane-kun? Right now, there’s a ‘Detective Prince craze’ on the Internet.”
“Look! A collection of Prince photos on the Internet!”
I saw the display on the cell phone she held out and became more and more embarrassed. No, it went so far as to be frightening.
As to why, there were countless pictures of myself which I had no memory of being taken. Furthermore, until just now when word of this reached my ears, I, the one in question, had really not known of this “Detective Prince craze”.
It was discomfiting to know that my name had been spread somewhere without my participation. It was the sort of bewilderment one might feel if told by a doctor that they were a somnambulist.
My fame this time may have been due to good will gone wrong; however, if by any chance it was ill-intentioned – just imagining it, a shiver ran down my spine.
In the next moment, Kujikawa-san’s face surfaced in my mind. How much hardship did she suffer as a famous idol? It was surely the case that every day, she was the target of much more dangerous thoughts than I was.
Even so, my apologies to Kujikawa-san, but I thought, “Ah, it isn’t just me,” and was strangely reassured.
Only one week had passed since I had last seen her, but suddenly I felt nostalgic at the thought of Kujikawa-san. She was high-handed and impudent and was always looking ahead, and I strongly wanted to hear her voice.
Of course, it wasn’t as simple as saying, “If you want to hear her voice, then call her.” I could never say such an embarrassing thing, and if I did, her triumphant reaction would be annoying.
And so I spent the remainder of the class time thinking up excuses to call her tonight.
I adhered to the precept of “Do your own legwork” that was the most basic of the basics of investigating.
For example, even if it was something written in the investigation file, if one went to the actual scene and made observations, it was often the case that they would have a different impression. Many times in the past, there had been cases where I had come upon a new line of reasoning by being able to look at the situation from a different point of view. Thus, I usually wanted to visit the actual scene as far as I was able and confirm with my own eyes and ears the details of the case. I thought what people said in the past, that “Hearing a hundred times does not compare to seeing just once,” was exactly the truth.
But it could be said that the case this time was quite tough. It seemed that “my legs would become tired.” I had mixed feelings about it, but it seemed that the “Detective Prince craze” was a blessing.
“You came to investigate the disappearances, right?”
“Yeah, yeah. That’s the only reason the prince would come to a remote school like ours, isn’t it?”
From the beginning, the people around me were cooperative about the investigation. Though in particular, they were the female students and students who introduced themselves as members of the newspaper club.
During break time, my seat was surrounded by female students overflowing with curiosity. “Get mochi from mochi sellers and information from newspaper reporters!” said the wildly excited newspaper club, and though I didn’t ask, they gave me information pertaining to the disappearance case. It did feel a bit anticlimactic, but I wondered if I should be grateful for everyone’s curiosity. It was just that I was fed up with the fact that I did not even have the freedom to stand from my seat and go to the restroom.
Just as had been in Touko-san’s explanation and report, the ones who disappeared were two students of Yagokoro High School. I had heard before that it had now been approximately two weeks since the beginning of the incident.
The first one who had disappeared was a then-first-year female student, Miyuki Midorikawa (16).
The one who disappeared next was a then-second-year male student, Shirou Konno (17).
“A connection between them? I never even saw them talking to each other.”
“I never heard about it either. She’s a delinquent and he’s the student council president. There’s no way they would be involved with each other.”
According to the newspaper club’s information, it seemed that the two missing students did not have any particular connection. That was consistent with the investigation report I had received from Touko-san.
“You want to know more about them, right? Won’t you come to the newspaper club room?”
It was data on the case that they, students of this school like the missing persons, had collected themselves. I had no reason to refuse. I headed to their club room. The newspaper club was borrowing one dusty corner of the document room.
According to their data, Miyuki Midorikawa had problems with her behavior and lifestyle, her grades had slumped, and she was insulted as a “delinquent” behind her back; the male students she had relations with were an extremely far cry from honor students.
On the other hand, Shirou Konno had impeccable conduct and excellent grades, and furthermore, was so much an honor student that he served as student council president. He was popular among the female students, but there were no particular stories of frivolous behavior.
The two of them were exact opposites and had no relation. We had thought of it as a serial disappearance case, but at present it was difficult to find a connection between them, so rather, I could only think that it would be more appropriate to believe that the two had gone missing for different reasons within a similar time frame.
I had finished inspecting the data, said “You’ve been of great help,” and it was just before I exited the small room.
It was said there was always a price to pay for good information, and the students of the newspaper club entreated me, “In return for us giving you the data, we want to write a ‘Know Everything About the Prince’ interview article...” I had no reason to refuse. No, there was no way I could refuse now. I said evasively, “Sometime soon...” and left the room.
Lunch break. While eating lunch in the school cafeteria with my female classmates, another intriguing rumor was mixed into information about the disappearances. It was about a certain incident involving the death of a female student.
“Right, this isn’t related to the disappearances, but half a year ago a second-year female student at this school died.”
“...Oh, that incident? That thing with the train... wah, just thinking about it makes me feel cold...”
It seemed that, about half a year ago, there had been an accident where a then-second-year female student fell from the Yagokoro Station platform, was hit by a train, and died. It had unfortunately been a limited express train. The limbs of the girl who was hit had been scattered across the platform. It seemed the scene at the time had been exceedingly gruesome.
They had not found a suicide note or will, so the police had declared the female student’s death an “accident”. However, the students knew that the girl had been worried about the Internet slander directed at her since about two months before her death, and there were still some who whispered that it had been “suicide”. In the end, it seemed it was only on the level of a rumor and the authenticity could not be verified.
In truth, it was a very intriguing story. My detective soul ached to begin an investigation immediately. However, it was unfortunate, but right now there were a large number of other matters that took precedence.
At the end of homeroom, the teacher told me sullenly, “Shirogane. Come to the staff room.” Having no idea why I would be scolded by the teacher, I knitted my eyebrows dubiously and followed behind the teacher.
“Your ‘companion’ has been causing trouble within the school, Shirogane. Honestly, it’s still just the first day...”
These were the details. While the female students were changing clothes after physical education, a boy with clothes of black and red said “I’m coming in,” threw the door open energetically, and invaded the locker room. As the dumbfounded female students returned to their senses and began to panic: “You’re noisy! Don’t shout! Like I give a damn about naked humans!” He became angry at them for their embarrassment instead of the other way around, and in the end, when he was chased after by the teachers who came running toward the commotion, “Che,” he clicked his tongue, jumped out the window, and fled. By the way, the girls’ changing room was on the third floor of the building.
“We had no choice but to approve the presence of that strange character in the school by request of the police. It’s too late and something has already happened to the students. Shirogane, if you don’t take responsibility and keep an eye on him, there will be trouble.”
Having finished listening to my homeroom teacher’s lecture, it was inevitable that I could only let out a leaden sigh.