“I understand what you’re trying to say. This isn’t an excuse, but whether or not you are disposed of isn’t under our jurisdiction. That belongs to the Board of Education.”
“Their chairman is Hiromi-chan. You know her, right? She’s always been a worrier. I can’t help but feel that her worrying has been even worse lately.”
Hiromi-chan…I had heard that Hiromi Torigai was on the Board of Education, but never knew she was the chairman. She was my mother’s good friend and I remember her often staying over for dinner. She seemed to be an introverted person, with a small, skinny build, and a voice almost too quiet to hear. So she had the power to dictate the life or death of any of the students, and frequently made these coldhearted decisions? I couldn’t believe it.
“The Ethics Committee is the highest authority in the district, but we usually don’t interfere with the Board of Education’s decisions. You guys were the exception. I asked them not to dispose of you.”
“Because of Satoru?”
“No. I would never let personal sentiments get in the way of such an important matter. You were the reason. You are indispensable for the future of the towns.”
So we had almost been murdered. Somehow even knowing that didn’t disturb me.
But what was the real reason we had been spared? It was hard to accept, but was it really because I was as important as Tomiko said? No one had ever said anything like this to me before, so I was completely confused. I wondered if it was possible that they couldn’t easily kill off the head librarian’s daughter. …but if that was the case, then my sister should have been spared too.
“But don’t think badly of Hiromi-chan and her people. They’re driven by a sort of paranoia.”
Did possessing the power to end the lives of others cause abnormalities in their mind?
“Hm. Perhaps that was a bad choice of words. I have the same fears too.”
“Fears of what?”
Tomiko looked surprised. “Isn’t it obvious? There are only two things in this world we really have to fear. Fiends and karma demons.”
I was speechless. The two nursery-tales I had heard again and again as a child came to mind.
“But Hiromi has never seen a fiend or karma demon. Unlike me. That’s why I always say they’re simply driven by paranoia.”
“So you’ve actually…”
“Yes, I’ve seen them. Up close and personal too. Would you like to hear about it?”
Tomiko closed her eyes for a moment and began speaking softly.