I don't go to horse races.
I've never spent money on cycle races, motorboat races and pachinko1 either. I have not experienced such gambling in any conceivable form.
Well, I'm still in high school after all. Of course I haven't.
Instead I have experienced a different kind of gamble—one that does not require money—countless times; a risky gamble that could cost my life when making a mistake.
So far, I have always won those gambles and overcome several threats that a student of my age could not normally hope to experience.
But how will I fare when there's something at stake that is more important than my life?
I always wanted to know the answer.
I always wanted to know the result first.
When I was studying, I would solve the problem after looking at the solution.
When I was having a meal, I would sit down at table after asking what I would be eating.
When I was going on a trip, I would depart after looking up the connection to the destination and its geographical features and specialties.
When I was playing a game, I would consult a game guide.
When I was dealing with others, I would only befriend someone after finding out whether or not he was well-disposed toward me.
Knowing the answer in advance made everything just so much easier.
I dislike aimlessness, recklessness and spontaneity. As such, it might have been inevitable that I obtained this power.
It happened just the other day, in a shop that I had found while rambling about the city. Therefore, I don't remember clearly where I found that shop, but I do remember that it had something mysterious about it.
Well, considering that they offered magical things like this—I think they called them "Relics"—the shop might shoot past the term "mysterious" and end up plain "creepy".
Anyway, at that creepy shop I got ahold of one of those mysterious Relics and the curious power it bore.
That being said, I'm still trying to find out how to make best use of this power. Anyone else would have probably instantly found one.
If anyone were to know about this power of mine, they would certainly dismiss my way of using it as pathetic.
Nevertheless, I keep searching for the best way to use it.
...Oh yes, I forgot to mention one thing.
There is one more thing that I dislike.
Because there is no answer to humans, and even when there is one, the answer will change with time.
"I'm out for a while."
With these words, Towako-san happily went off.
As Saki and I just mutually admitted, Towako-san was frequently disappearing somewhere lately. Being the owner of the Tsukumodo Antique Shop, Towako Settsu would often be away for days to purchase new goods, but her recent excursions were of a different nature: she would just leave at evening and come back in the middle of the night. Of course, she showed no sign of buying anything either.
After quickly locking all doors, we hurried in the direction we'd seen Towako-san go. We found her in no time and started to pursue her.
Actually, I had asked her about her absences the day before, but the answer I'd gotten was roundabout and ambiguous. Even worse, she had been blatantly flustered and her attempt to talk her way out had been downright miserable.
Because her strange behavior had made me suspicious, I'd decided to go into the matter.
"But should we really be doing this...?" Saki asked. While she was with me on this, she wasn't fully convinced by the idea of tailing Towako-san.
Doubtlessly, she was right in that spying on somebody like this was to be considered indecent. I was not going to deny that. However, judging by the fact that I had never before seen Towako-san act that way and the fact that she was hiding something from us, I deemed this matter to be fairly grave.
"Maybe she got caught up in some incident, don't you think?"
"Yes, perhaps, but..."
"Wouldn't it be a disaster if something happened to our shop owner? If worst comes to worst, we might have to close down!"
Saki gasped. My choice of words was very effective against her, as someone who loved loved the Tsukumodo Antique Shop more than anyone. "We must not let that happen."
"I know, right?"
"It can't be helped then. We are doing it for the Tsukumodo Antique Shop."
I could feel an iron will forming in Saki. Although her face remained expressionless.
Towako-san turned from the main street into a narrow side street and walked along for a while until she stopped before a high building and knocked at its metal door. The building seemed rather desolate. I wondered what it was for.
After a few moments, the door opened from inside and a suited man appeared. They exchanged a few words, which I couldn't catch because of the distance, after which the man showed her the way in.
Towako-san put on a smile and entered the building.
"On a secret date?" Saki replied with an unexpected answer to my accidental mutter. To my surprise, however, her words clicked with me.
This is... this is... getting interesting!
Truth be told, I had never really expected this to be a grave matter, but neither had I expected a development like that. Originally, I had expected something along the lines of her going to that dubious sister shop of hers.
"Wait," Saki stopped me just when I was about to go nearer to the site. "We must not invade her privacy. We should stop here."
"Look, she's spending working hours on private matters without a justification. I do think we have the right to investigate this matter."
"You have a point there."
Whoa girl, you've changed your mind quickly, haven't you?
Well, being the zealous shop assistant she is, Saki is probably very much concerned by the fact that her boss is prioritizing her private matters over her shop, I thought, making up excuses for Saki, but in reality she was just as interested in Towako-san's private life as me.
In order to get an idea of the building's purpose, we walked around to its front and found out that we were looking at an obscure arcade. We also tried going inside, but there were only a bunch of old video arcade machines, a few young part-time employees and a few customers.
Needless to say, there was no trace of either Towako-san or her suited companion.
We went out and walked to the rear side again.
"What should we do?" Saki asked.
"Not that I want to get caught, but it's not like we have a choice."
I tried turning the door knob of the door Towako-san had used, but the door was already locked. I also knocked at it just in case, but of course it didn't open.
There was no peephole built into the door, either. Judging by the fact that someone had opened the door just when she arrived—
"As I thought." I discovered a small, hidden surveillance camera.
For the time being, I decided to try knocking again. There was no reaction whatsoever.
"E-x-c-u-s-e m-e! I want to sell game coins!" I said with a deliberately loud voice and stubbornly kept knocking at the door. Before long, the door opened.
"What is it?" the suited man who had showed Towako-san in asked.
"I would like to change my game coins to money..."
"We don't do that here."
"Huh? You don't? But I was told that I had to come here! So where do I change my coins now?" I asked.
"I wouldn't know. Ask someone of the part-timers."
"That's what I did and he told me to come her!" I countered.
"And I told you that you're wrong here."
"Now that's strange. Didn't a woman just go inside to change her coins?"
The man's face tensed up for an instant. The next instant, he grabbed my collar with his thick arms and pulled me inside.
After throwing me to the ground and pulling Saki inside as well, he locked the door.
"Who are you guys?" he asked in a voice that made my blood run cold. By the looks of it, I had talked a bit too big. Alarm bells started ringing in my head.
So much for a "secret date". If anything this looks like a secret smuggling site if you ask me.
"What do you want here?" the man asked again.
"Changing my coins..."
"Don't you lie to me," he said in an imperative tone.
I ground my teeth. If I were honest here and told him about Towako-san, would that give her any problems? Would it get her in trouble?
"What are you doing here?"
All of a sudden, Towako-san appeared from inside with an expression somewhere between bewilderment and surprise. She looked completely different than before, however, wearing some fancy makeup with a tight, sleeveless red dress. She was a confident beauty from the outset, but fully dressed her sex appeal was boosted to the max.