“We have turned up new evidence, in the form of public records, that conclusively show Matsushita Shiori was born in 1908, not 1898. The Matsushita Shiori who was born in 1898 died in 1923, during the Great Kantō earthquake, which also flattened the hall of records and led to the two being conflated.”

“You are sure of this?”

“We discovered records that had been removed for administrative purposes before the quake and never returned, including a birth certificate that mentions Matsushita Shiori’s port wine stain birthmark. The the lightest ink is better than the sharpest memory, as they say. I am afraid Matsushita Shiori is another Izumi Shigechiyo and must be stricken from the public longevity records.”

“Do you think the mistake was deliberate?”

“It is difficult to say. He may have exaggerated for the sake of a pension, or simply forgotten. His adoption at a young age complicates things, and his service in His Majesty’s navy was another reason to exaggerate or misremember his age. In either case, the task of informing him has been delegated to you.”

“Need he be informed? Matsushita Shiori is an old man, even if not so old as we had previously thought. Can we not let him live out his remaining days, which are surely few, with his illusion?”

“This revelation means that he will no longer be feted at his upcoming birthday by His Majesty, and that he will lose a portion of his pension as provided by the Diet, as it is reserved by statute for the oldest man in the country. He is old, but he is not entirely senile, and he will know that these circumstances have changed. Would you rather he be informed that he will lose his pension, fail to meet His Majesty, and lose his longevity claim all at the same time?”

“No, I suppose not.”

“Then you will fulfill your duty, distasteful though it may be. Your taxi will be here in an hour.”

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