She couldn’t refute his words.
After all, she herself knew just how strange this was.
Shinichi has been missing for 8 years since he was spirited away by the dimensional drift.
By all means he should currently be 20 years old.
But after cutting his long hair and getting a good look at his face, he was clearly just a high school student.
That’s why even though she had never met Shinichi before and only knew him through his pictures, she was still able to recognize him immediately.
On top of that, the person himself failed to hide his surprise that it was currently year 2022.
If you include what happened afterwards, it would be very hard to argue that he was just putting on an act.
“When falling into a dimensional hole and winding up in either Garesto or Earth, from to time to time, there’s a discrepancy in time. But at most it’s just about a month or so. If there’s a time discrepancy going to and fro, then that’s about two months at most. A 6 year time discrepancy is impossible. And yet there’s currently one such situation right before our eyes.”
Although they found it hard to believe, even the analysis showed that Shinichi was really just a 15 year-old boy.
Incidentally, although Garesto did a thorough scan of their world just a month ago, it has been hypothesized that the reason they failed to find Shinichi then was because he’d fallen into another dimensional hole, so that part currently isn’t an issue.
“D-Does that have something to do with your order to monitor him?
It’s true that it’s strange, but even Garesto doesn’t fully understand dimensional drifts.”
One month being the maximum possible time discrepancy during dimensional drifts is nothing more than an inference made based on past data. It is also said that time doesn’t flow in the space between dimensions. That’s why it’s not impossible to say that he ended up staying there all this time, which is why there’s a 6 year time difference.
“Indeed, if it were just that, then there would be no need to make a move.
But you know, that’s not the only thing off about him, Second Lieutenant Nakamura.”
But her boss just brought up another point. It seems this was the real issue.
“The investigation group on his case failed to find the path he came back from. They couldn’t even find a trace. Naturally, they can’t tell where from Garesto he came from.”
“Huh? But it was because a hole was opened that we were mobilized.”
“Right, which is why there’s a trace of one having been opened, but we have no idea from where it was opened. To put it in more technical terms, the residual energy when travelling from one world to another is missing. We can’t find it.”
In fact, there isn’t even a trace of something passing through. If they hadn’t found him, they would have thought that a hole just spontaneously opened.
“The investigation group suggests that perhaps someone intentionally erased the traces. This isn’t a situation that could occur naturally. After receiving their report, we decided that this case isn’t like the other dimensional drift cases.”
“In that case, it would make sense if you asked me to investigate, but why do I have to monitor a child?”
Rinko knew what he was saying, but she just couldn’t accept this order to monitor Shinichi.
Investigating was one thing, but why does she need to monitor him?
“Everyone has their own opinion on how to approach this case, but it is my opinion that someone else passed through with the boy. After all, the boy himself is an All D, so he couldn’t possibly be the culprit. As for the Amaryllis, it might be powerful, but removing traces requires advanced technology. It and its ilk may be smart, but something like this is still beyond them.”
Therefore, a 3rd person must be involved.
And it is possible that the boy is covering for that person. That’s what the countermeasure office thinks, or at the very least, that’s what this superior of Rinko’s thinks.
“This could be a ploy for someone from Garesto to make an escape. And to Nakamura Shinichi, it would have been a big chance for him to go back home, so he would have gone with it even if it seemed suspicious.”
“B-But he was in the dangerous region, which was basically a no man’s land. He couldn’t have possibly met someone…”
“And the only evidence we have of that is the fact that he’s accompanied by an amaryllis.
It’s true that they can usually be found there, but that’s not the only place they inhabit.”
“But if he was elsewhere, then he should have been able to return legally!”
For the past 8 years, Garesto has been looking for and taking in lost Earthlings. Probably as a part of their cards when negotiating with Earth. Regardless, that practice continues to this day.
Many Garestonians were also aware of that, so someone as conspicuous as a black-haired Japanese would have surely been noticed. There’s also no way that not a single Garestonian bothered to help him.
The only exception is if he were in a place no Garestonian could enter.
That’s why the conjectures of Rinko’s superior was strange.
“And what if he had committed some kind of crime during his two years in Garesto?
Surely, you realize that it’s far too optimistic for such a weak child to get by without a scratch in that region after living in it for 2 years. Even if he was under the protection of an amaryllis, that’s just too tall a tale to believe.
After all, that place is home to monsters so strong, the weakest of them is All A.
Isn’t it more likely that he was actually somewhere else and because of some crime he committed, he couldn’t come home? At the very least that line of thought is more grounded in reality.”
“Tch. I understand what you’re saying, but in the end, it’s nothing more than circumstantial evidence. I can’t believe you’d use that as an excuse to get me to monitor a child who doesn’t even know that 8 years passed! —Wait! Could it be!?”
While at one glance, it might seem like there’s reason behind her superior’s words, Rinko could only see it as an attempt to find fault with Shinichi.
It’s true that a time difference of 6 years certainly needs to be investigated, but that’s certainly not something to monitor the boy for. On top of that, they’re even asking her, who is living with him, to do the monitoring. That’s just too much.
But as she thought about it, it suddenly hit her.
“I thought it was odd how fast we were able to take him in. Could it be it was for this!?”
It has only been three days since he was found and his identity was disclosed. Normally, the investigations and the questioning would continue a little longer, but for some reason, they were able to quickly claim Shinichi as a part of the Nakamura family.
When she asked if it was for something as stupid at this that they allowed that, her superior nodded.
Another reason is because no abnormalities were found in his body, but you’re basically right.
It was lucky for us that his dad happened to be your husband. Observing will be easy.
He’d probably keep a tight guard outside, but he’s sure to relax at home.”
He spoke without any emotion, voicing only the facts.
Selfish. The way he spoke without any consideration for others was starting to get on Rinko’s nerves. But if she were to flare up here now, there was no telling how he would react.
“…Isn’t this beyond my job description?
I’m not a part of the investigation group.
Moreover, although I’m only his step mother, we are still mother and child.
Wouldn’t a relative normally be excused from jobs like this?”
“I know you lack the training, but I’m sure you’re not so blind as to miss the oddities in a person when you’re living together with him.”
—Why thank you for the compliment!
Rinko felt like replying sarcastically, but she endured the urge.
Never has she been so envious of her coworker’s naturally sharp glares as much as now.
“And besides, even if you are mother and son, you only just met a few days ago.
Not only are you not related by blood, you also haven’t spent much time together, so I’m sure no one will have any unjust suspicions.
You can be at ease and do your job. Make sure to reveal Nakamura Shinichi’s true character.”
When Rinko turned around, she wanted to praise herself for being able to endure so much.
—Unrelated people should keep their opinions to themselves! Don’t judge my relationships based on some reports!
She really wanted to yell that and hit that guy in the face.
He only got to his position because of his brains, so he didn’t have a single attribute higher than Rinko’s.
If Rinko wanted to she could beat him senseless, but of course, that wouldn’t be permitted.
Not to mention that her anger quickly cooled down when she recalled Shinichi’s face that time.
The moment Shinichi realized from his relatives words that 8 years had passed, the face he made as he stopped Rinko was simply too calm and sad.
Then after that all he did was say stuff like ‘it can’t be helped’ ‘they’re not wrong’ ‘they’re right’ ‘of course, it would end up like this’.
He didn’t try to blame his mother or his siblings. He just quietly accepted it all.
When she thought of his expressionless face, rather than anger, it was sadness that filled her.
Which is why she accepted the job with a voice so calm that it would surprise even her.
But this was a decision she made in order to protect him. If she refused here, there was no telling what would happen.
This was a place that could easily come up with some excuse to take a child away from his home.
He’d finally been reunited with his father. There was no way Rinko was about to let this man use Shinichi as a tool to further his career.
Since this man returned Shinichi to his family to be able to easily monitor him, then Rinko would just take advantage of that.
She would spend as much time with Nobuhiko and Shinichi as a mother.
After all, only they knew what happened inside their house.
She resolutely made that decision.
But unbeknownst to her or anyone, a certain white mask was watching as everything took place.