Three days later––
At lunch, Masaki and the others were summoned to the headquarters of Breaker.
The headquarters were underneath the school building.
He imagined that it would be a really strict place, but contrary to his expectations, it was only a large room with tatami mats spread out. It was about 350 square feet and had white mud walls. Masaki and the others were gathered in the center of the room.
When he sat down seiza-style on the tatami mats, his mind mysteriously calmed down.
Despite wearing a skirt as part of her uniform, Shirley sat down with one knee up and her elbow resting on that knee.
She might not have sat in such a way if there had been other people around. She had a wild feel like a relaxing tiger.
For some reason, Alice was holding her knees as if she was in PE class.
Midorikawa-sensei was sitting cross-legged right across from the three who were sitting lined up. She was wearing the same jersey.
Green tea appeared before all of them.
Masaki lifted the teacup calmly and… took an enthusiastic sip from it.
Shirley didn’t drink anything since she didn’t like very hot food or drink. She preferred to gulp it all down at once after it had cooled down.
Alice seemed like she didn’t want to make any noise while drinking, she knew that it was good manners to do so but she drank quietly.
Masaki put his cup down and looked around him.
“This is a little surprising.”
“What was that?”
Midorikawa-sensei had a cigarette in her mouth.
Cigarettes in modern times didn’t need to be lit and gave off only a little smoke when used. Although they had become more moderate in terms of addictiveness and health damage, minors still weren’t allowed to smoke. It was a strange feeling, seeing someone who looked like an elementary school student with one in her mouth.
“I imagined headquarters would be a place with lots of computers.”
“It used to be like that in the past. Eventually holograms became more convenient. We can access any necessary information whenever we like through a window.”
Midorikawa-sensei flicked one of the windows beneath her hand with her fingertip.
It flew back about four meters and increased in size to about 60 inches.
“Well, in practice the color isn’t as good compared to a monitor, but my job doesn’t involve appreciating or evaluating movies. Being able to share information quickly is a priority.”
“Since everyone in the committee has access to their own terminal, we got rid of the things that were in the way.”
“That’s rational since this work doesn’t involve staring at a screen for a long time.”
“…Is it rational for there not to be any chairs? It’s uncomfortable.”
Alice said it as if it was a soliloquy.
Midorikawa-sensei shook the cigarette and answered.
“The number of people gathered changes depending on the situation. If our members are having a discussion they need to pay attention to whoever is saying something. It would be troublesome to deal with the clattering of bringing chairs out every time. Since we’re Japanese, tatami and green tea are fine. ”
“…That is your preference.”
“Our irritating advisor can do whatever she likes to the room!”
It seemed like the main reason was her preference and everything else was an afterthought.
Masaki gave a strained laugh.
On that subject, Midorikawa-sensei got up and went towards the depths of the room and brought out some documents from a cupboard. Paper documents were rare these days.
“Kusunoki, is this your first time coming to headquarters?”
“This is the committee’s registration application. The people on the Canaan Board of Education are idiots to have such a thing as paper documents in this day and age,.”
“Haha… well if it’s necessary I’ll write.”
It had been a long time since he had filled out a form with pen and paper.
Midorikawa-sensei increased the size of the window, displaying an image of a hospital room.
“Well, this is today’s agenda!”
“Ah, it’s Ishounuma.”
It had been three days since he was stunned by Shirley.
“…He still hasn’t regained consciousness?”
“It seems so. We wanted to get some information out of him about that damned suspicious application.”
“…And he went too far.”
“Eeeh!? He went to that extent to refuse to say anything!?”
“…Like this, the culprit has given his testimony.”
“I’m the culprit!?”
“Now now you two. His coma probably wasn’t caused by him refusing to give information.”
Midorikawa-sensei nodded at Masaki’s words.
“You’ve got good intuition. I was told by people giving him medical care that it seemed like the application was tampering with his brain and might be the reason why he can’t get up. No matter how you think about it, it’s something illegal.”
Alice smiled with her whole face.
“…It’s APPD (1).”
All the students in Canaan were given Ring Gears, but outside of the school there were similar devices spread around. The application used those as an intermediary, and by sending particular signals to the brain, it could have an effect that resembled narcotic drugs and could cause side effects .
The manufacture, circulation, and use of it was prohibited worldwide.
Midorikawa-sensei opened up different windows one after the other.
“I feel that he’s also showing similar symptoms to Ishounuma. Come to think of it, Sakurazaka also caught this guy, right?”
Masaki also recognized the guy. It was the wiry, slender young man who chased him on the first day of his transfer.
He was sleeping.
“Micchan-sensei, he didn’t refuse to say anything after what happened?”
“That’s right, he surrendered after you destroyed the wall. Stop wrecking the school in order to intimidate people. This isn’t the set of a comedy movie. It’s quite expensive just to replace the panels.”
“Don’t gloss over the issue with that laugh! It’s all coming out of Breaker’s budget. Because of your punch, my afternoon snack is in danger!”
“You’re cheap Micchan. I can pay for that myself.”
“No way. The confectionary in Canaan is expensive.”
Most of the daily necessities were made underground, so Canaan was self-sufficient regarding those, but luxury items like snack food were transported from the mainland.
“If I don’t eat Oreos every day, I’ll die.”
“Wasn’t there Ritz in the cupboard?”
Shirley brought out a red box. She opened it up.
“You!? You idiot! That’s my lunch!”
“Don’t eat it! Why did you eat it!? Hey, why did you eat it!? Didn’t I say it was mine!?”
Her eyes were seriously starting to tear up.
“…What a good adult.”
“Midorikawa-sensei, please don’t get angry about the Ritz. If that was your lunch then after this you can go to the cafeteria with us.”
“Are you saying that I shouldn’t get angry about the Ritz!? You’d better apologies to Nabisco!”
“…Can we go back now?”
“No, wait a minute. You can leave after this.”
The conversation was finally back on track.
The Ritz that was the teacher’s lunch was set out in front of all of them like it was tea cake.
If you really considered it––if it was being bought using Breaker’s budget, this was a good way to use it.
The tea and salty snack food was quite a good combination.
“Even the medical group investigated whether or not it was APPD. Not just Alrescha, they did a close investigate of Canaan’s entire network. They said that it might do something like strengthen Dialect, so it might be a possibility.”
“It’s possible? Ishounuma did become really strong…”
“Since the Ring Gear record was jammed. They said that there’s not enough evidence to call for an investigation in all of the academy cities around the world. But I warned them.”
The floating academy city Canaan was in Japanese territorial waters, but other countries had their own floating academy cities. Or their facilities for Globalizers could also be underground or in the heart of a mountain.
Around Level 3, the person would be restricted from being a tourist and would have to change schools; the procedure seemed to be necessary since problems with maintaining security and national defense arose at any level above that. Masaki had never been abroad, so he had only heard about it.
Alice said that she was from England.
Did she become a Globalizer after she arrived in Japan? Or maybe there was in some kind of situation that made her transfer to Canaan?
“…Who would give a nitwit APPD?”
“Well, that’s the question.”
Shirley continued to munch on the Ritz.
Masaki thought about it.
“Hmm, I was thinking, could it be someone in this school building? Since it’s only happening here and events like this haven’t occurred in the other school buildings.”
“…In Alrescha, there are 2790 students, 180 teachers and 203 staff members.”
The students were Globalizers. Half of the teachers were Globalizers. Only one person in the staff was one. All of them had Ring Gears.
Midorikawa-sensei grumbled while biting into the “cake.”
“There are about 3000 suspects. That’s too much for Breaker to handle. Mmm, mmm.”
The huge list worried Masaki.
“Can you narrow it down to people who are likely to give away APPD?”
“…If there were traces on the net, we wouldn’t be having this annoying conversation.”
“Right. If it was passed on through the net, we could find evidence left in the records of the school server and we wouldn’t have to go through so much trouble.”
“…It’s direct access.”
“Yeah. If the APPD application was left on the Ring Gear, we would be able to examine it, but it deleted itself from the Ring Gear. It’s pissing me off!”
“…Can you identify a person that might have been able to meet him from the location records?”
“How far back should we go? I don’t know exactly when it was received.”
Masaki had an idea about that.
“What about the day it happened, or after school the day before?”
“Hm? Ah, now you mention it, you guys had a dispute the day before, right? Could he have got it then?”
“I can’t confirm it but… if he had it at that time I think he would have used it.”
“Mmm… I should be able to narrow it down a lot.”
“And the incident on my first day here… I think that guy also met someone then. There’s no record of it since I didn’t have a Ring Gear, but he was talking like he was having a conversation with another person.”
“Did you see the guy? Could he have been talking to himself?”
“I’m not completely sure but… I heard the other voice faintly.”
Midorikawa-sensei opened the catalogue of location information and narrowed the candidates down to the time and place.
“There’s one candidate.”
“Kusunoki Masaki, it’s you––––––––––––!!.”
“…You’re actually the criminal.”
“Masaki is the criminal!!”
“Hey hey, Alice and Shirley… please stop. The point is that I didn’t have a Ring Gear at the time of the first incident.”
“Nihaha, it’s a joke, a joke.”
“…Nothing could be done if I was on the verge of death from the APPD that was handed to me.”
Midorikawa-sensei kicked away the window.
“Daaamn! If there are multiple culprits, I swear I’ll give up!”
“Can the criminal jam the GPS tracking? And rewrite it with fake data?”
“That’s impossible. The Ring Gear’s signal is picked up by the sensor in the school building… it’s possible that it could be a dummy.”
“What is it, if it’s the Ritz, you’ve already…? If you make a move on the Chip Stars (2) in the cupboard, I’ll seriously kill you. Pay for it yourself.”
“Is there a person that was by themselves at that time that wasn’t moving and could have had a conversation with him?”
“Mumumu… that search criteria is troublesome. Can we stop now?”
“Sensei, let’s do our best!”
“I get it, I get it. I tried to say that. Let’s see…”
Her small finger tapped the hologram.
“There are a lot of people who fit… this is a large campus so there’s just too many.”
Was it a dead end?
At that moment, Masaki was struck with inspiration.
“Erm… when you exclude the students and staff members… what do you get?”
“Well, why do you think that a teacher is the culprit, Masaki?”
“Let’s see… would a student or staff member pass on an application that makes Dialect stronger to Ishounuma? That’s what I’m thinking.”
“I see” Alice nodded.
“Ishounuma is level absolutist. He treats people with low levels like trash. He doesn’t think of the staff members who don’t have an ability as human too. So there are some people who wouldn’t have handed an application that strengthens Dialect to such an irritating person. ”
It was hard to think that the staff members with no ability that he had made a fool of or the students around him who were treated badly by him would give him more power.
If he had fought with the APPD and Alice and Shirley hadn’t been there––Masaki would have been killed. Even though he had no doubt that would satisfy Ishounuma’s selfish greed, he still didn’t want to image what would happen after that.
Even for Ishounuma, he wouldn’t have used the application unless he trusted the person that gave him the APPD.
The expression in Midorikawa’s eyes changed.
The number of people displayed in the window decreased.
“Hey, Kusunoki… I wouldn’t have guess that it would be that guy… It wouldn’t be strange for the two APPD users to have placed their trust in a teacher, they were alone at the corresponding time and were barely moving. There’s only one person within the 3173 people in Alrescha that fits.”
Masaki fixed his eyes on the names displayed in the window and had his breath taken away.
Shirley grasped her fists tightly.
Maybe Alice had already considered that possibility, as she only let out a small sigh.
Midorikawa-sensei hit the window. Since it was a hologram, it disappeared without any resistance.
(1) – Application Drug
(2) – Japanese version of Pringles