Kamisama no Memochou:Volume 1 Chapter 3

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Chapter 3[edit]

During the winter break, I started to show up at Hanamaru Ramen Shop more often, because Ayaka was usually working there. Just staying at home is really boring, anyways.

At first, Ayaka was surprised every time she saw me.

“So you can go out even when you have nothing to do?”

What kind of person does she think I am?

Hanamaru Ramen Shop was always very free in the winter, there weren't many customers in the morning. One reason is because it's the new year period. On the other hand, it's because there is a chance that the ramen shop is mistaken to be an ice cream shop.

That day, Hiro, Ayaka and I were tasting Min-san's special hemp ice cream. As I had been tasting only salty ramen the whole day, my tongue felt much better when it came in contact with the sweet taste of the hemp and vanilla ice cream. The soup that Min-san makes is now much better than what she made before, but tasting them every day is still very painful.

“Did Toshi contact you after that?”

Facing Hiro's inquiries, Ayaka bit her spoon, knitted her brows and shook her head.

“He didn't even come home for the new year.”

Does Ayaka know that Toshi was addicted to drugs? From last year's end until this year, quite a few cases of violence occurred in the streets. I heard that the police couldn't make head or tails of what the suspects said, as the drug addicts' addiction of the drug made them suffer when they were in custody. I watch the news every morning and night, and the name Shinozaki Toshi could be seen on the television screen each time, as he is missing right now.

Ayaka said: “I think my brother is probably at Hakamizaka's place.”

“Is that person Toshi's girlfriend?”

“No, he's a guy! I'm not sure, but I think he's a university student or a researcher.”

It's impossible for brother to have a girlfriend! Ayaka said seriously, which was out of character. Although it was pitiful for Toshi to be said that he could not have a girlfriend, but actually I have the same sentiments. Only Hiro gave a contrasting opinion.

“Really? His weak personality is actually quite suited for being a gigolo. I won't be surprised even if he's staying at some girl's place right now. Actually, I'm more relieved if that's the case.”

“No doubt that it'll be more reassuring if things are so…… But it's impossible! Brother can't wash his clothes and can't cook.”

“Nonono, a gigolo doesn't need to wash clothes or cook.”

“Is that so?”

“Although they're sometimes misunderstood, the ones that could do housework are ‘househusbands', not gigolos. Gigolos want women to feel: ‘This guy can't live on without me!' so the housework is handled by the women.”

This guy is completely useless.

“Wow, I can't do it if it were me. I would probably feel embarrassed for that and give them a hand, finish the cooking and wait for them to come back or something like that.”

“That's right, the job of a gigolo is to bring out the motherly instinct in a woman, a normal person isn't competent enough to do all that.”

“That's so wonderful of you!”

It's not wonderful at all, what nonsense is Hiro spouting? He's an incomparably useless scum! Although I was thinking that to myself, I was lazy to correct them, so I continued to eat my hemp ice cream.

“Have you ever thought about marriage?”

“Never!”

“Why is that?”

“Actually I have a person that I truly love in my heart, so I can't marry other women.”

“But then is it okay for you to live together with them? Don't you feel that you're doing something wrong on the girls?”

“I feel that I'm wronging them as well, but I couldn't change it, this is my lifestyle.”

“Go to hell!”

“That won't do, Fujishima-kun, you spoke out the things that you are thinking about again.”

Ah, it's true, but never mind.

“Did you guys just mention Hakamizaka?”

A voice came from behind us. I turned over my head, and saw a person wearing a square, fur hat like those worn by the Alaskan soldiers, and a plump waterproof outer coat used in the army. I only recognized after a while that that person was Major. The goggles-styled sunglasses completely covered up his eyes, making them seem as if they're a part of his face.

“Ah! Mukai-san, it's been a while, happy new year! What would you like to order today?”

“I'm on duty right now.”

“What about the Chinese Garlic set?”

“Hmmm…… Okay then!”

Why did Major order something so obediently? And also, what is the Chinese Garlic set?

It was like Major couldn't handle Ayaka. Among the people that I know, only Ayaka calls Major by his name. Every time when I hear it, I thought to myself: Who is Mukai-san?

“Finally there's some work to do! Min-san, one Chinese naengmyeon[1], with added garlic!”

Ayaka stood up and rushed into the kitchen. Eating naengmyeon in this cold weather? Major looked as if he had just swallowed a live toad, and sat down on the gas tank that Ayaka was sitting on just now.

Hiro asked Major: “Major, did you know the person called Haka-something?”

“I think there's a person called Hakamizaka at the research centre of our school.”

Hiro and I were taken aback and looked at each other. Hiro leaned forward and continued:

“We've heard that Hakamizaka is the person who's hanging out with Toshi lately.”

Major pressed his hand against his chin and thought for a while.

“Do you know him? Then try to make some inquiries!”

“No, I've just heard about his name. He's really famous! They say that he doesn't even show up at the research centre, but his PhD thesis went through. But they might just have the same name, right? Why would Toshi hang out with this kind of people?”

“Haka-something isn't a name that every Tom, Dick and Harry has! Toshi didn't contact us much lately.”

“But I've just went to the school once today, do you want me to go again? There's professors and students everywhere!”

Of course there's professors and students in a university! But Major is actually a university student! This point really surprised me.

“The professors just nag me to death whenever I show up.”

“Then just leave school earlier!”

“What are you talking about? For the sake of barely staying in school, I strive to get credits that are barely enough to pass, and then skip classes, maintaining the state of not going to the next level or graduating, waiting for eight years to pass then leave school automatically.”

“…… Don't you want to graduate?” I actually asked him that.

“Am I still considered a NEET if I graduate normally from university? Don't you know what the second E in NEET means?” Seeing you screaming blue murder about things like this, I'm having a headache too.

“Major goes to university for the sake of searching for information.”

“That's because history books and military information is not cheap! Letting the school library buy it is the best plan. I just ask the library to buy books for me before I leave school, until the whole room is filled with the books that I want to read, and then the room would be called the Major room.”

Just buy it yourself if you want to read it! What a troublesome student.

“That's right, let me tell you, the books that are in this time are about battle submarines that can emit signals!”

“Oh yeah, Major, didn't you go to school because of Alice's request?”

Major opened the bag and turned it upside down, and the papers inside fell out onto the crate that we used as a table.

“You guys want to see the photocopied information, huh? You're holding that upside down.”

“I don't understand this.”

“I, myself, don't understand it as well.”

I went over to look at the papers that Hiro was holding, the color photocopied paper had a tall, red flower on it, and words were closely packed around the plant.

“You know that drugs are running rampant in the streets right now, right? This is what Yondaime requested Alice to investigate. I've heard that it isn't anything good. Toshi wouldn't be taking these, would he……”

I was taken aback, and thought of the pink pills that were used to block the twinkling lights of the Christmas decorations, which had wings of angels and two English letters on it. After taking the pills, he claimed that it was a legal medication that could make things ‘look as if they're not moving'. What was its name again? What was it called? It was at the tip of my tongue, but I still couldn't remember it.

“Ah, that is……”

“Mukai-san, sorry for the wait.”

Ayaka served Major his naengmyeon, interrupting my words. I swallowed back what I was about to say, because I didn't want Ayaka to hear it. Hiro showed a confused expression and tilted his head. I hastily shook my head.

“What is it?” Ayaka came over to look, and I speedily snatched the paper from Hiro's hands and turned it over.

“That's so bad of you! What are you hiding, Fujishima-kun?”

“Nothing! Nothing at all.”

At this moment, a customer finally appeared in the shop. Ayaka hurriedly put on her apron and went to serve him, allowing me to heave a sigh of relief.

“What is it? What's with you, Narumi?”

Just as I was about to answer, the blaring ringtone of ‘COLORADOBULLDOG’ rang in the shop. Major's skinny body jumped almost a meter high, while Hiro hurriedly took out his phone, but Major was faster.

“I know that you're here, so don't talk rubbish with the others downstairs. Hurry up and get here! It's urgent! And Hiro, hurry up and drive the car to the front, quick!”

Even I could hear Alice's voice at the other side of the phone clearly, showing how painful Major's ears are right now. As Major was about to answer her, she hung up.

“Alice is also in a bad mood today, huh?” Hiro raised his head and looked at the worn-out building behind him.

“Don't you know? Every twenty nine days, Alice would get into a mentally unstable state for five days, this is the result of my detailed investigation so it can't be wrong. As for the reason, I'm still not sure of that.”

Isn't the reason obviously because of the girls' period? But seeing Major triumphantly speaking of all that to Hiro, I couldn't tell that to them.

“Every twenty nine days, so today is the second day.”

“I'll go drive the car over here. What would be the matter, I wonder?”

Hiro left, leaving a silent Major. I tilted my head. Alice isn't that scary, is she? She seemed like she's in a bad mood everyday, anyways! After I said that, and was fiercely glared at by Major, whose eyes were hidden beneath the goggles.

Finally, Major said seriously:

“Do you know vice-admiral Jisaburo Ozawa? He's the last Commander in Chief of Combined Fleet of the Japanese Navies.”

“Never heard of him.”

“Then don't you know about the naval battle that occurred during the Second World War at Leyte Gulf, Phillipines? It is considered to be the largest naval battle in the world, and Vice-Admiral Ozawa used his team as bait to lure the enemy away , and successfully shifted the attention of the American forces away from Leyte.”

“Ah?”

“So we're counting on you, Vice-Admiral Fujishima.” Who's the vice-admiral? “Let's meet at the Yakusuni Shrine!”

“Refused!”

*

In the end, I went with Major. As soon as I stepped into Alice's room, I saw her curled in her blanket, looking as though she was going to cry.

“Mocha Bear's ear has fallen off!”

A huge, tea-colored teddy bear was placed at the front of the bed. No matter how you look at it, it was larger than Alice, but that might be because she's too petite. As Alice said, the thread holding together the bear's right ear has burst, exposing the cotton that was hidden in the seams.

“Careful! Carefully place it into the box! Stuff it full of towels! Narumi, don't touch the wound! What if you enlarge the wound!”

Following Alice's directions that were full of yelling and crying, Major and I placed the hurt plushie into a big cardboard box stuffed full of rolled up towels in the seams of the box. The huge, wrapped up box is indeed a thing that couldn't be handled by just a person.

Major asked: “So it'll be okay if we just bring this to Yondaime's?”

“Tell him to fix it by tonight, this concerns my life!”

Alice said with tears in her eyes. Why would they hand it to Yondaime? How does this concern her life? Questions swirled around in my mind, but the atmosphere does not allow me to ask them.

“And here's the information that you asked me to find.”

Alice took the transparent file from Major, read it as fast as if she's reading manga, then extracted a portion of the photocopied papers and threw it at me.

“What are you spacing out for? Don't you know what to do with this if I didn't tell you to hand this to Yondaime as well?”

Major and I fled the room with the box containing Alice's precious bear.

*

Hiro's car was a dark blue, high classed imported car, and doesn't seem to be something that could be owned by a nineteen year old guy.

“It's because I'm the only one that has a car, although I didn't buy it myself.”

He explained that it was a gift from his girlfriend, and it was from his ex-ex-ex-girlfriend. This guy would probably get a knife in his chest by a woman one day.

“But driving there is a suicidal action……” I looked at the other side of the railway, which had grand lights lighting up the night skies. There were three roads at the south side of the station, and there were always traffic jams there.

“Speaking of which, just bringing this box over there with this car also counts as a suicidal action, doesn't it?”

I lowered my head and looked at the large box containing the plushie. Hiro had a point. Actually, we could just tie the box at the back of a motorbike and send it there, but Major said that he needed to go back to his school for awhile, and rode the motorbike away. It seemed like he wanted to investigate this Hakamizaka guy.

We stuffed the box into the backseat, used the safety belt to keep it still and went back to the front seat.

“Is that bear really that important?”

“Alice can't sleep without it at night.”

“Ah?” Things got that bad, just because of that? “But why are we taking it to Yondaime?”

“Ah— about Yondaime, he looks fierce and all, but he has an interest in arts and crafts. He helped Alice to fix the plushie once before, and his skill is top notch. That was also the first time for me to see Yondaime sewing.”

“Who……”

The car soundlessly drove on the streets. The night view has become a river formed by streetlights.

“Who on Earth is that guy?”

“Have you ever heard of the Hirasaka-gumi?"

I do have a faint impression of the name, as it would come up between conversations in school.

“Are they a motorcycle gang?”

“Nono, they're not a motorcycle gang. They're just a gang formed from a bunch of kids who like to fight or to follow the crowd in this district, a self-proclaimed yakuza gang. Yondaime is their leader.”

Hiro said in a casual manner. But even I, who just moved here, know of the existence of the Hirasaka-gumi, so shouldn't they be quite a large organization?

“Is it because Yondaime is the fourth generation of the organization that he is called Yondaime?”

“No, he's the first leader of the Hirasaka-gumi. He founded Hirasaka-gumi, and so the only person who could control their members is him.”

“Eh? Then why is he called Yondaime?”

“Because he is the fourth generation in his hometown, Kansai. It seemed that he ran away from home, and that place is where the true yakuza truly lies."

Whoa, really? Then why didn't he just stay home and be their fourth generation leader?

“He'll get angry whenever someone calls him Yondaime, but Alice felt amused about that so she deliberately called him Yondaime. That ended up being his nickname between us.”

“You guys really went too far……”

I muttered to myself, and Hiro laughed while patting at the gear he was holding.

“He's even worse than us! But nobody can beat her, no matter if it is Yondaime or us, understand?”

I thought of the snow white skin that was like a Japanese doll, large eyes and long hair as black as molasses. I get what Hiro meant, as I couldn't win against her.

“But you should refrain from mentioning this to other people, because Yondaime will kill you. Hirasaka-gumi is a self-proclaimed chivalrous organization, and are very adamant, so they won't forgive those who misuse drugs.”

I remembered something.

“Hiro, do you remember what the drug is called?”

“Nope…… Ah, I've forgotten, it should be written on the information gathered by Major, shouldn't it?”

I skimmed through the papers that we were supposed to give to Yondaime. The rather complicated chemical equations and content written in professional terms made my head spin. Repeating the same action, excitement, overly-alert, insomnia, rising blood pressure, sharp ears, slack pupils…… The side-effects of the drug were densely packed on the paper, telling people how dangerous it is to consume it, the name of the drug, which was the most important to me, was not written on it.

I hope that it's just my groundless fears.

*

The office of Hirasaka-gumi was situated at a somewhat dirty building, after driving on the slope that was at the left side of the main street in front of the station. The building was just beside the fork on the slope.

We parked the car at the parking lot and took out the box. We went on the cramped elevator that was making a noise like the painful panting of old men, up till the fourth floor. As soon as we walked out of the elevator, we could see the long, straight signboard hung beside the metal door, and the words ‘Hirasaka-gumi” were solemnly written on it. A swallowtail butterfly-shaped logo of the gang was drawn in a round, black frame…… Wait, it shouldn't be the logo of their gang, but the emblem of their organization. I was really freaked out, they aren't really yakuzas, are they? But without even using the doorbell, Hiro straightaway opened the door and went in.

The door in the room was somewhat smaller than the doors in a classroom, and looked even smaller because of the cupboards arranged by the wall, the sofa at the center of the room and the tables. Four or five guys wearing black T-shirts were originally sitting down, but suddenly stood up at the same time.

“Second brother, thanks for your hard work!”

“Thanks for your hard work!”

They saluted Hiro. I couldn't help but take a step back, nearly dropping the box in the process. What is with this situation? Second brother?

The people wearing black T-shirts were quite young, at most they're at the age when they've just graduated from high school. They had skin that was dyed into a dark color, bleached hair and had piercings in their ears. They looked just like ordinary young people who would gather at the streets of the street center every night. The only thing different with them is that there was an emblem printed on top of their T-shirts.

Hiro answered: “Don't call me that! I've said that loads of times, don't call me second brother.”

“But you and Sou-san are just like brothers. Here, let me help you to take your stuff.”

While saying that, Yondaime's bodyguard – Rocky placed the box onto the ground.

“Well, forget about it, I've dated quite a lot of girls before, so in some way, I'm a brother to Yondaime.” How does that count as being his brother?

“Hiro, you really don't want to live anymore, do you?”

Yondaime opened the door to the right and walked out. That day, he was wearing a purple vest, and you can see a tattoo of their emblem on his right shoulder.

“Aren't you here to hand me an investigation report? What's with this large box? It isn't stuffed full of reports, is it?” Yondaime sat down on the chair behind the table and said lazily. Hiro shook his head and tore away the tape on the box.

“Nono, this is Alice's request. Her doll's ear dropped off and she wanted someone to fix it.”

Hearing Hiro's words, Yondaime almost jumped up a few feet, just like a spring. He jumped over the table and leaped in front of me in a flash, pressed down the box that was about to be opened, and glared ferociously at Hiro.

“Don't you know that? You can't speak of that thing here!”

“Sou-san, what's in the box?”

“Nothing! Carry the box to my car, and don't look inside. If you look, I'll beat you up until you forget about it!”

Yondaime's imposing manner was just like a hurricane, and he threw the car keys to another man. “Yes, sir! I'll go hone my manliness right away!” He picked up the keys and saluted. How could you even hone your manliness while moving a cardboard box anyway?

“This is ane-san's stuff, so we should move it carefully.”

Ane-san would be Alice, right? Did they watch too many strange movies or something? The box was taken out by two guys wearing black T-shirts. Did we just do some meaningless labor? I raised my head and looked at Hiro. He was laughing sneakily. Oh~ So he deliberately moved it here to annoy Yondaime…… He told me not to tell anyone, but he himself wanted to tease Yondaime.

“You'll have to fix it by tonight.”

“I know! I'll send it there after I fix it.”

Anyhow, he's still a yakuza boss, but he would actually spend the night fixing a doll for a pajamas-clad hikkikomori? It's such a mystery, what the heck is with this situation? I looked at the people in the room, thinking that they would probably be very surprised if they know that, huh?

“Do you know it too? Hiro told you about that, didn't he?”

Yondaime grabbed my shirt by the collar.

“Know what?”

“Know that thing! That!” At this moment, I suddenly felt like teasing him.

“Eh? Which matter do you mean by that?” “Don't you know it? It's my…… that!” “You keep mentioning that, but how would I know what's that when you don't say it clearly?” “Don't play the fool! Idiot, how could I possibly say it out myself!” “Eh? But I'm not sure, so why don't you just tell me the possible answers?” “Narumi, I know that you're very amused right now, but Yondaime would be very distressed if you don't stop talking!” “I'll be the one distressed if I stop talking!” “Here's the investigation report.”

Hiro handed Yondaime the transparent file, as though nothing happened just now. Yondaime tossed me to the floor and snatched the folder. “Hey! Get me the folder from the hospital.” Yondaime commanded. A man wearing a black T-shirt walked into the room and handed us a sea blue folder.

Returning to the other side of the table, Yondaime looked at the two folders with a serious expression on his face. Hiro went closer to have a look and asked:

“What's this?”

“It's the symptoms for the people who were hospitalized this month or so for taking drugs, we're investigating that as well.”

“That's quite patient of you…… Oh yeah, you could just compare it with Alice's information.”

“Right…… Hmm, this guy is……” Yondaime's finger moved along the information of the drug effects, and then pointed at the papers in the sea blue folder. “…… We guessed correctly. The effects of the drug is too long to be MDMA, while stimulants can't be taken directly, and the patient is young too.”

“Is it Fix?”

Rocky the bodyguard asked while peeking at the side.

“We won't know if we don't ask. He's at N Hospital, so let's go!”

Yondaime's words caused all of the black-shirts to stand up and put on jackets. It felt as though the atmosphere in the room changed completely like a light was suddenly turned on.

…… Fix?

The memory of that moment finally surfaced, the carving of the letters A.F at the bottom of an angel's wings. Toshi had said that, angels would not have preferential treatment on humans.

“…… Angel Fix?”

Because of my mutterings, Yondaime fiercely turned around, scaring me until I couldn't even straighten my back.

“Why do you know of Angel Fix?”

“Eh….. That, that's because……”

Yondaime took hold of my collar, and Hiro answered for me with his face green:

“That day I was with Toshi…… That guy……”

“Hey, so the things that Toshi was holding on to were pills? Round ones, you sure?”

Yondaime tightly held my collar, and pulled it until it almost couldn't rise up higher. Being caught, I nodded fervently. Hiro took hold of Yondaime's hand, trying to pull him away from me.

“Stop that! Do you want to kill him? What's with the pills?”

Yondaime tossed me to the sofa, and I could only cough violently while keeping a hand on the floor for support. Yondaime's voice sounded from above me.

“Didn't Alice tell you anything? The way of selling Angel Fix was very special, and didn't have any fixed way of selling them. The people who bought them crushed them into powder, and then sold them to other people that they know. It was like they didn't even want to earn money, so we couldn't find the source of the drug. The only thing that we are sure of is, the source of the drug is a person with the round pills.”

Yondaime stopped talking for a moment and looked at me.

“Is Toshi the person who directly bought the pills, or is he the person who's selling them?”

Putting on the white coat that his lackeys handed him, Yondaime swiftly sent orders using a phone. Some of them went to the hospital while some of them went to search for Toshi. Yondaime and some of his lackeys stayed at the office while the others hastily walked out of it.

“Just go home, Narumi!”

Hiro pulled at the collar of my sports jacket, and only then did I wake up from my stupor.

“You guys aren't looking for….. Toshi, are you?”

“I don't even know where he is.”

“But……”

If I had noticed earlier……

“What are you dawdling there for? Hurry up and go home, don't get in our way.”

Yondaime's tone was harsh, so Hiro could only drag me out by the arms, but my legs didn't move. Shouldn't there be something that I can help with? Although I'm not really clear about Toshi's problem, but the person who spoke to him last before he disappeared was me. There should be something that I can help with.

“There's nothing that needs your help. Hurry up and scram. There's already someone dead because of the drug.”

Yondaime answered sternly.

“But……”

It's all my fault, if I caught hold of Toshi properly, all of this would be okay. If only I remembered the name of the drug earlier and discussed it with someone……

“Narumi……”

It looked as if Hiro, who was at my back, was going to say something, but was halted by Yondaime's raised hand. I felt like I was going to be bitten to death by him, so I could only shut my mouth and lowered my head. The sound of the lackey's footsteps disappeared from the door. I secretly raised my head again.

Yondaime was originally standing at the other side of the sofa, but his wolfish eyes suddenly appeared again before me. I suffered a heavy punch in the stomach, and could not help but to bend my back, saliva dripping out of my open jaw. Yondaime used the hand that he just punched me with to support me and harshly hurled me back to the sofa.

“If that had been a knife, you'd be already dead. Don't be so cocky, kid. A normal person will only get in our way if they get hurt when taking part in an investigation, so you'd better get lost!”

After Yondaime walked out of the room, I leant against Hiro's shoulders and stood up again.

*

The sun had already set by the time we returned to the ramen shop. It was as though we could touch the cold air that was accumulated between the buildings. Only the surroundings of the curtains of ‘Hanamaru Ramen Shop', which had streetlights shining on it, had some warmth there. I was dumbfounded for a moment while looking at the lights.

Walking to the back door of the kitchen, the silhouette that was sitting on a pile of old tires was Tetsu-senpai, wearing a short-sleeved shirt. Holding a bowl, senpai turned around, and there were only the sounds of him eating ramen in the darkness.

“Where's Hiro?”

“He's parking his car.”

I sat down on the worn out tires, and stopped talking. Senpai finished the salt flavored ramen together with the soup, then took out a crumpled up pachinko magazine from his back.

Isn't he going to ask about Toshi? Or did he already know but doesn't care? Am I the only one who's like an idiot that thinks that I'm involved in this matter?

“What is it?”

I don't know if he just noticed my gaze, but Tetsu-senpai shifted his attention from the magazine to me.

“Do you already know about Toshi?”

“Yondaime called just now. Toshi is such an idiot.”

“You guys were…… friends, right?”

“We're friends now, too, as long as he is willing to come.” Tetsu-senpai laughed after saying that.

Then, aren't you worried of him?

The smile disappeared from senpai's face, as though he noticed what I wanted to say.

“That guy didn't come seeking for our help, did he? We don't even know where he is, so we can only stay out of this matter.”

But, I had this feeling – he might have sunk into a seriously helpless state, and that it'd be best if someone could hear his soundless voice. But at least I couldn't do it, I couldn't do anything.

“My eyes exist for the purpose of taking note of the number 7s that lie side by side, while looking for a kid that's addicted to drugs is Yondaime's job.”

After saying all that, he sank into his pachinko magazine again.

Was this guy really a boxer……?

I suddenly stood up, and went closer to Tetsu-senpai. Almost at the same moment that he raised his head from his magazine, I threw a punch at senpai's stomach, and uttered a late sound. My fist was blocked by Tetsu-senpai's large left hand.

“What are you doing?”

Tetsu-senpai didn't sound angry at all. I shaked my head and squatted down.

“…… Tetsu-senpai, please teach me boxing.”

“Why do you want to learn how to box all for a sudden?”

“No particular reason.”

I know that I'm just a feeble kid, but I still feel depressed when I know this fact clearly. It can't be helped, I couldn't do anything in reality.

That's right, I should tell Ayaka about what happened to Toshi. But how should I tell her that? While thinking, I looked for Ayaka from the kitchen to outside the shop, but I couldn't see her anywhere.

“Min-san, where's Ayaka?”

I poked my head into the kitchen backdoor and asked. Min-san answered without getting her eyes off her pot on the flames:

“She went home early just now. She looked like she's very ill, did something happen to her?”

Went home early?

I looked at Tetsu-senpai's face.

“She wasn't here when I came.”

It couldn't be because she already knew about Toshi taking drugs? It's impossible. Then what could be the matter? Or did she eat the leftover hemp ice cream alone, and then had a stomachache?

I leant my back against the gas tank and squatted down. My mood right now was as though I had been walking around the wrong place and ending up in a dead end, then repeating the same situation again.

I lowered my head, and the phone in my pocket started to quiver.

“I've heard from Yondaime. But let's not talk about how you forgot about such important information first. Where's Ayaka? I couldn't get to her phone.”

Am I imagining things? Alice's voice sounded extremely cold.

“…… It looks like she went home early because she felt ill.”

“Went home early, huh? This is bad, she's the only clue for contacting Toshi. The third semester starts tomorrow, right? If you see her in school tomorrow, tell her to call me immediately. Although I don't really think the siblings are in contact……”

At that moment, I recalled the night that Toshi called Ayaka. He said that he was calling from Hakamizaka's phone.

“Why didn't you say so earlier? I've really had enough of your dim-wittedness, I really don't know what to compare your brain to. Comparing to the speed that your brain processes, the speed that stalactites grow at could be considered quicker.”

Being cruelly chided, my whole body almost curled into a ball.

“When was that last call? Try to think of an exact time.”

“It should be…… Before seven. Why are you asking me about the time?”

“I could find out who they are just by checking the phone log. Since we can't get to Toshi's phone, we would have a breakthrough if we could just find out Hakamizaka's way of contact.”

Checking the phone log? But how?

“But Ayaka said that there's no number displayed.”

“So what? It's just not displayed on Ayaka's phone, but there would still be a record at the telecommunication center!”

How can you check such a thing? Isn't that a crime?

“Aren't you somewhat looking down on NEET detectives?

Alice hung up.

I stared at my cold phone for awhile. Which reminds me, I think she said that she's a hacker or something like that. She could investigate my file even with Dr. Pepper in one hand, and humming a song through her nose, right? But shouldn't it be impossible for her to investigate the records of the telecommunication center?

It's useless if I worry. The only thing that I could do is to tell Ayaka about Toshi's problem, at least telling her this is my duty. But how should I say it? Your brother is currently addicted to drugs so don't go near him, could I tell her something like this?

I don't know. I don't have the confidence to tell her about this.

*

On the day of the opening ceremony, Ayaka didn't go to school. I was worried that she had a bad flu, but she didn't answer the phone when I called. It couldn't be helped. I could only take care of the garden and the plants alone, while ignoring the greenhouse.

Ayaka didn't go to school the next day either. Nor was she there when I went looking for her at the ramen shop.

“She doesn't seem like a person who would be absent for no reason.” Min-san knitted her brows. As she was extremely busy serving and washing the dishes, I gave her a hand in washing up the dishes.

The day when I finally saw Ayaka was the fifth day of the new semester, a Friday. I immediately went to the rooftop after school, and saw a familiar silhouette. With a black armband on her left arm, Ayaka was watering the plants. I was taken aback when I saw Ayaka, who turned her head over. Obviously nothing changed for her, but she looked like someone else for a moment.

“I'm sorry for being absent without a reason.”

“Did you get the flu?”

“Yeah, that's right. It's probably just the flu.”

She gave me a faint smile, one that even I knew was fake.

“It seemed like you did the club activities properly when I wasn't here.”

“I'm a club member, after all!”

“Thank you, Fujishima-kun.” Ayaka showed me a transparent smile that made people feel helpless. “But if you would put on the armband, I would be even happier.”

“No, that's too embarrassing. Hey! Stop that!”

Ayaka took off her own armband and started to attack me, trying to put it on my left hand.

“You must wear it the whole day, that's an order from the club president.”

Ayaka looked really happy that day. She taught me a lot of things, like how to prune, pick seeds, types of fertilizers and floriography, until I almost couldn't remember them all. Seeing Ayaka like that, I couldn't help but have an urge to ask her for a few times: “Did something happen to you?” I originally wanted to tell Ayaka about Toshi, but didn't do so as I didn't know how to tell that to her.

Finally, it was already sunset. The clock on the school building opposite to this building said that it was four forty-five. We sat side by side on the railings and looked at the evening sky.

“Do you have any siblings?”

Ayaka asked.

“A sister.”

“Really? How's your relationship with her?”

“Not really good. Recently I kept going home late, so I kept getting scolded. But sister would always make dinner for me, so it's still okay, I guess?”

“Your sister is the only one cooking? What about your parents?”

“My father is only home for about five days in a year, while my mother's already dead.”

“Ah – sorry.”

“Why is it that whenever I answer that my mom is dead, everyone apologizes to me?” I said. “Why? I'm not even angry. Or is it only normal being angry now?”

“Hmmm…… Hmm?” Ayaka's eyes wandered. “I don't think you need to force yourself to get angry.”

“Really? I don't know what they mean by normal.”

“You don't need to feel that you have some kind of handicap!”

“That's because your words made me feel handicapped.”

Ayaka laughed dryly.

“That's just a lie. As I don't really know how talk to the others, actually I only wanted to talk to you.”

I felt Ayaka's gaze on my face, but I couldn't turn my face over.

“I didn't go to school when I was in middle school, but just studied at home. After I went to high school, I just feel that…… feel that I should start over. Until about May or so, I passed my time at the rooftop during recess and after school. After that, I tried to chat with the others and avoid coming to the rooftop. But I still felt very lonely in my heart, and could only feel happy when I'm gardening.

Ayaka raised her head to look at the setting sun.

“One day, I came back to the rooftop because of despair, but I found that you were here.”

When did that happen, I wonder? Much earlier than when I noticed Ayaka, she already knew who I was.

“That time I wanted to look for you and have a talk, but I didn't have a chance. So I moved a few plants to the rooftop and pretended to stay at the rooftop because of club activities.”

I almost couldn't breathe at this moment.

“I'm probably clumsier than you. Although you might not feel it, I'm really thankful to you. So, when spring comes –”

Ayaka stopped and gazed at the soil full of weeds.

When spring comes?

What on Earth was the matter? Ayaka's really strange today. Saying all these things that make people feel uncomfortable, something DID happen, right? I must ask her about this.

But as I was about to speak, there was a sound that indicated that someone was opening the door to the rooftop.

A person wearing a pale green coat and unforgettably long hear appeared at the door. It was the consultant teacher for the Gardening Club – Sayuri-sensei (since everyone calls her by her name, I don't know what the teacher's surname is).

“Ah, both of you are here.”

Wearing high-heeled shoes, Sayuri-sensei ran unsteadily while waving at us.

“Shinozaki, did you take leave because of flu?”

“I'm okay already.”

Ayaka showed a nervous smile while saying.

“Really? Then that's great. That's right, you should clear the plants at the rooftop.”

Ayaka frowned and said: “Are there going to be any activities there?”

“The group photo for the graduation yearbook. I've heard that we would assemble at the rooftop, and the photo would be taken from above on a helicopter.”

Sayuri-sensei looked around the rooftop.

“But there are so many weeds here, we can't just have you two clearing them.”

As sensei has said, the weeds occupied the whole rooftop just by growing in the cracks in the floor.

She took out a tape measure and started to measure the size of the rooftop. There are about two hundred people or so graduating from our school (it's actually rare for a school in this district to have so many people graduating). Would the rooftop be enough for that many people?

“That's right, it's already the season for graduation. Time really flies.”

After Sayuri-sensei left, Ayaka said in a lonely tone:

“But there's no problem if Fujishima-kun is here. We're going to recruit a lot of new members next year!”

Ayaka looked at the black armband on my arm, and I nodded silently.

Until much later, I still remembered what Ayaka said that time – what did that mean?

Does she mean that she's okay if she's with me?

Or – does she mean that it's okay if it's just me?

“So, Fujishima-kun……”

Ayaka hesitated, staring at my face. That was the first time, and the last time, that Ayaka hesitated when speaking to me. That was obviously an unusual situation, why didn't I notice it? Why?

But Ayaka gave me, who was confused, a smile and shook her head.

“Sorry, it's nothing.”

*

The club activities ended for that day. After that, we went to the ramen shop together. Ayaka was harshly scolded by Min-san for being absent without a reason, so she broke a pile of bowls due to being overactive.

When I was trying the abnormally bitter mocha ice cream, Tetsu-senpai, Major and Hiro appeared, which was quite early for them.

Hiro said: “We visited the hospital just now.”

“Visited the hospital?”

“One of the kids in Yondaime's organization got stabbed. He found the source of the drug, but that guy had a knife and he started to crave for his drug.”

“Then……”

“Anyhow it's fine if he's okay. He was my kouhai, too.”

Tetsu-senpai sat on the ladder and sighed.

“Now Hirasaka-gumi is murderously searching in the streets, so if Toshi is also a drug dealer……”

Senpai sneaked a peek at Ayaka who was in the kitchen, lowered his volume and said:

“He'll probably get caught soon.”

Major told us: “It looks like Hakamizaka really is a researcher from our school.” “Alice is on that trail, so we could probably catch him soon.”

I sneaked a peek at Ayaka too, thinking that I don't need to force myself to tell her about Toshi seeing as we'll find him soon. I consoled myself that way, and didn't want Ayaka to worry on the other hand.

I just hope Toshi coincidentally got the drug from someone, and then was addicted.

“Good. Before Toshi comes back, let's just teach Narumi first.”

“Let's start from playing dices!”

Eh? How did things turn up like this?

But I could not refuse as I was surrounded by Tetsu-senpai, Hiro and Major. It was actually the first time that I was forced to gamble money in a game of dice. In the end, senpai owed me about two hundred and seventy thousand yen. Senpai who lost all of his money said to me halfway: “Although I don't have any money left, I'm still going to bet ten thousand!”, or “I can't pay all that anyway, so I'll add twenty thousand!” What a ridiculous person.

*
Ayaka hurriedly chased the bus, and waved at me.

On the way home, I walked to the busstop with Ayaka, but still couldn't say anything. When we walked past the bridge, the bus coincidentally passed by us. Ayaka hurriedly chased the bus, and waved at me.

I could still remember clearly Ayaka's face at that moment.

That was the last time that I saw Ayaka's healthy smile.

*

In the cold air of the Tuesday morning, someone found Ayaka collapsed at the garden in front of the school building. The teachers and students from the sports clubs formed a wall of humans, surrounding the blood that was splattered on the cement ground. Ayaka's upper body was collapsed on her garden that she tended to for ten months. She had a pale, green face and reddish black marks could be seen clearly below her open eyes, making her look like she's in the battle clothes of the natives.

The girls turned their head around and threw up. Although the teachers were desperately shooing away the students, the crowd was still there. I also stood in the wall of humans, faintly hearing the sound of an ambulance getting closer.

I kept staring at Ayaka's small body being moved to a stretcher, until the white car swallowed her up and left. The sound of the ambulance rang again. I rushed to the parking lot for bicycles, opened the lock like I was going to break it, got on my bike and rushed out.

I chased the ambulance that was rushing out to the road, the freezing wind scratched my ears, as if it's going to cut my ear off.

I don't really remember what happened after I reached the hospital. I remember the white walls of the corridors, the lit light on top of the door of the surgery room, stretchers going here and there, and the footsteps of the nurses.

Ayaka was sent directly to the ICU room straight after she went through surgery, while I was kicked out of the hospital. A crowd wearing familiar uniforms was gathered at the entrance, even though it was so late.

“Fujishima, how is Ayaka?”

“Has the surgery finished?”

“Hey, is Ayaka okay? Hey!”

Surrounded by my classmates, I could only shake my head while looking at the floor. The noise was painful to my ears. I pushed away the people and ran away.

At the pitch black bicycle parking lot, my bike was so cold that it was as if it had frozen.

When I went home, I snuggled into my bed, imagining the moment when Ayaka crossed over the railings on the rooftop to jump of the building, but I couldn't. What's with this? What on Earth is with this? My tightly clenched hands started to tremble, and I started feeling nauseous. I fervently tried not to, and in the end I went into the realm when reality and dreams interlaced and slept.

*

The next morning, the television broadcasted the news of a female student suiciding by jumping off the rooftop of M High School. It seemed like they found her shoes arranged tidily by the railings, but didn't find a will. When the screen showed the familiar school entrance and buildings, I rushed into the washroom and threw up, but only gastric acid came out.

“I'll help you call the school for sick leave!”

My sister said to me, who closed myself in my room. It was only at these moments that my emotionless, stern sister with her sharp eyes made me feel a hint of gratitude. Finally, her voice saying “I'm going out” and there were footsteps walking out of the entrance. I'm the only one left in the house.

There's only me left.

I recalled the day on the rooftop. Did I say anything wrong? Was Ayaka trying to say anything to me? Why didn't she say it? Did I miss something? If I asked her, would she answer? Why didn't I ask? Why? My phone rang for quite some time, but I pretended not to hear it. My mind kept replaying the few hours on that day at the rooftop.

The only thing that Ayaka left me was the armband of the Gardening Club, printed with an orange logo on it. It's the armband that she wore on her arm that day. After I was forced to put it on, I wanted to return it to her, and brought it back home straightaway.

Had Ayaka already planned to suicide at that moment?

I don't get it.

When I suddenly felt like opening the curtains, it was already dark outside. As soon as I turned on the lights, the glass windows reflected the pitiful face of a young man.

That person was me.

With my back on the blue skies of the evening, I squatted down on the mat. It was like my body belonged to another person, as I couldn't even feel a hint of coldness.

*

When I finally saw Ayaka, it was two days after that.

In the room that was colorless but exceptionally bright, Ayaka laid on the mattress. I thought that Ayaka would be surrounded by many types of tubes and unknown machine, making her seem like a scary pincushion; but there's really just an IV hanging on her hand. I only recognized Ayaka's face. Her hair was completely shaved off. Her tightly wrapped head laid on the pillow looked very small in comparison.

I sat on the round stool, looking at the pale eyelids that wouldn't open again. At the other side of the bed, the doctor was explaining to Ayaka's mother about the difference of a person in a vegetative state and brain death.

I thought to myself: What's the difference?

Neither could talk nor laugh, so what's the difference?

Why didn't anyone say anything to me, who's present? I don't get it. It's probably because I came here early morning although it was already school time, so I was mistaken as her family? The doctor then started to explain the payment for euthanasia and life support system, but that might not be a doctor, but a merciless person from the insurance company. You all should just shut up. Why could you say these things in front of Ayaka as if nothing had happened?

Why did this happen to Ayaka?

Anger suddenly surged inside of me.

This is all someone's fault, some person forced Ayaka to an impasse. What did God write in Ayaka's page of His notebook? It was a dumb thought, but I couldn't stop it. At a place that I don't know of, even if someone is stabbed, shot, or ran over, I don't care, but not about Ayaka.

I hugged my knees on the hard, round stool of the hospital, restraining the dumb thoughts that exploded in my heart.

After that, my classmates came to visit Ayaka for quite a few times. Compared with seeing Ayaka, they were even more surprised when they saw me. It seemed that they said stuff like cheer up, you can't skip school or something like that, but I couldn't really remember it.

In the end, the only person in the ward was me. Only me and Ayaka's empty shell were left. The winter sunlight that passed through the curtains was slow and weak.

I couldn't take it, so I dragged my stiff body and ran out of the hospital, went home, and closed myself in my room.

*

On the following two or three days, I didn't even go out of my room.

I didn't feel like going to the hospital anymore, as I didn't want to see my classmates, and I felt sad when I saw Ayaka.

My sister knocked on the door and said: “You've skipped school for about a week now, huh?” I silently shook my head. Even though she couldn't see my expression, she still placed a big bowl of porridge in front of the door and went to work.

I didn't even touch it, and left the porridge to cool. It was not until noon that I opened the window that I didn't open for three days, and breathed in the outside air. My lungs and throat were burning, giving out white fumes so clear that you could even catch it with your hands. The sunny sky was so dazzling that even my eyes started to hurt.

The last moments that I went through with Ayaka on the roof, were also on a sunny day like this.

Seeing the fact that I would turn out like this, I felt perplexed too. It was just someone other than me doing suicide, it was just someone other than me who wouldn't smile or open their mouth again, that's all.

The me three months before would probably laugh at me right now, huh? Or -

The doorbell suddenly rang, scaring me into hiding below the windows. At the moment when I froze, the doorbell rang twice, thrice, and then a whole lot more. The sharp sound of the electric doorbell pierced my eardrums. Who was that? Why did they do that? Was that a child playing a prank?

The sounds of the doorbell finally stopped, and the sounds of an exhaust engine started. I peeked at the road outside the windows, and saw a skinny silhouette donning clothes for camouflage driving away a motorbike, and disappeared at the corner.

It was Major.

Why did Major come to my house?

I ran down the stairs and opened the door to the entrance. There was a black box on the doorstep, and familiar words were written on it in white – Hanamaru. With trembling hands, I picked up the box, tore away the tape and opened it.

White fumes rushed out. In the whitish solids – dry ice, there were two round, transparent plastic cup, and there was ice cream sprinkled with chocolate powder on top on it.

Tiramisu.

‘Give me a pull.'

I moved the box to the kitchen and sat down on the floor. I took out a cup and ate a mouthful of the ice cream. Swallowing food was abnormally hard, I choked on my second mouthful of ice cream. The ice cream that was cold, sweet and painful.

After finishing the two ice creams, I stared at the dry ice in the box until they finished subliming and disappeared. The weight and coldness on my knees finally disappeared after a long, long time.

When I took a bath, I felt that my whole body had been refreshed.

Finally, it was five in the evening. Afterwards, I dried myself and walked out of the door.

*

I just didn't go to the ramen shop for a week, but everything seemed to have changed. The shop was full of customers, there were even people holding bowls on the chairs outside and on beer crates. It's just the usual view of the ramen shop, but Ayaka was not there.

Min-san looked at me, who was standing at the entrance, for a moment. The office workers who were chewing dumplings while reading the sports news were also staring at me.

Min-san said: “You've finished the two ice creams?” I nodded.

“Is that so? One of them was for Ayaka.”

Min-san's words pierced my heart.

I left the bright entrance of the shop and went to the backdoor of the kitchen, but only saw Tetsu-senpai's silhouette in the darkness. Senpai was sitting on the second step of the stairs, and was reading a magazine about pachinko machines. I didn't even know what to say, so I could only remain silent, listening to the sounds of people ordering food and the sounds of cutlery colliding.

Tetsu-senpai finally stood up. I was surprised, and hurriedly straightened my back.

“Narumi, you wanted me to teach you boxing, right?”

“….. Eh? Oh, Yeah…… That's right.”

“I owe you two hundred thousand, so I'll teach you for free, a two years course.”

“Senpai……”

“Stand up, and take off your coat.”

Tetsu-senpai's words were hard to oppose. I stood up and took off my coat.

“Why did you want to learn boxing?”

I stared blankly at Tetsu-senpai, then lowered my head and looked at my coarse hands.

“…… It's because I wanted to, become stronger……”

“Hmm, so what's the fastest way to become stronger?”

“Eh? Isn't it practice?”

“No, the correct answer is……”

Tetsu-senpai took out two rolls of bandages out of the bag beside him.

“Put on the bandages.”

“Eh?”

“The difference between a boxer and ordinary people is not being strong or weak, but they couldn't hit other people meaninglessly. When you hit other people, your fists would hurt, and the other party would hurt too. When you think that the other person would hurt too, you couldn't hit them anymore. Put on the bandages.”

Tetsu-senpai wrapped up both of my fists firmly with bandages. My clenched fists didn't even feel like my own. After that, senpai took out a punching bag and wore it on his hands.

“Come! Punch me! Anywhere is okay.”

I lowered my head and started to hesitate. I was unable to raise my fists.

“Just start! Sometimes, it's better for people to look for something to hit. Don't think of anything, just start!”

I raised my head and saw senpai smiling.

“I will accept your weak, powerless punches.”

My shoulders trembled, and a viscous liquid rose from the upper part of my waist to my flanks. If I just stood there without moving, I would probably just scream without a reason, so I flung out my tightly clenched fists.

Right, left, right, I continuously hit Tetsu-senpai's large silhouette.

My outstretched right fist made a ‘dong' sound, and was absorbed by the boxing gloves. A numbing pain was transmitted to my elbows and shoulders. I didn't care, and lashed out with my left fist. Colliding with the punching gloves as soon as I straightened my hands, the pain could be felt even from my teeth. Right, left, right, I continuously hit Tetsu-senpai's large silhouette. Even though I gave punched a lot, the tightly held boxing gloves would receive my fists, reflecting the attack back to my body. It hurts. When you hit people, your own self would feel pain. It's a simple and persuasive fact. Did Ayaka feel pain at that moment too? Or did she have no time to feel pain? Sweat trickled into my eyes, blurring my vision. I could only hear my rapid breathing and the sound of me hitting the punching gloves. This is a real sound that belonged to me, and real pain.

I don't know how long I practiced, but before I knew it, I stood with my back bent, panting while holding the worn tires. As I worked out suddenly, my ears rang and my chest hurt. Sweat flowed from my forehead to my chin.

It was then that I finally knew why I came to the ramen shop – for Ayaka, and for myself.

I raised my head, and saw Tetsu-senpai looking relaxed.

“Do you want practice some more?”

I shook my head.

“Thank….. you, that's…… all for today.”

I took off the bandages and handed it back to senpai, my body still burning. That's quite natural, it's because I'm still alive. Ayaka might not feel this heat any more, but at least I could still stand up with my own two feet.

“I'll go look for Alice.”

*

The room was dimly lit because of the tens of monitors in the room. Alice was sitting on the bedside. It might be because of her black, luscious hair, but it made her silhouette look just like a vase, and the vase was filled with stars in the galaxy.

“This is the way that I express my sadness, because I do not know of any other way.”

Alice said with her back against me. In the darkness, the speed of Alice hammering on the keyboard was rapid, and the sound was like the rapid-fire sound of an automatic rifle used in a war that was at the other side of the Earth.

“I've checked Ayaka's medical records, but actually I know that I didn't have to do that. The one who understands the most that Ayaka could not recover ever again, would probably be you, who had seen it with your own eyes.”

Could not—recover.

Is that true? Although the doctors have said, Ayaka would probably need to lie on the bed all her life, passing her days in a vegetative state.

“But you still came to to look for me. I actually thought that you'd close yourself in your room, or attempt suicide.”

“Is that so?”

I sat down in front of the bed. Alice stopped typing on the keyboard and turned around. The colorful pajamas looked like it was the color of mercury due to the rays of light by the monitor, while the eyes looked as though they would crumble if you just touch it, and were emitting a weak ray of light.

“…… You wouldn't even get angry if I said that.”

“Eh?”

“No, nothing, it's my bad.”

I think I've heard something incredible, Alice actually apologized to me.

“I have no reason to get angry. If nobody cares about me, then I would probably turn out like you have said.”

“Really? Then you should be thankful to the shopkeeper who's so good at making ice creams.”

I nodded my head.

“Speak your request!”

“Alice, you're a detective, right?”

“I'm not an ordinary detective, but a NEET detective!”

“One who could search the whole world without taking a step out of the room, and find out the truth?”

“It is as you have said.” Alice showed her sad eyes, smiling self-mockingly.

Of course I don't believe her exaggerated promotions, but I don't have any other person to turn to.

“Then……” I swallowed, “I would like to request you to investigate something for me.”

I spoke of it myself, but it sounded somewhat funny.

At that moment, I was stared at by Alice's large, deep eyes, and experienced the pain of a stopped breathing. The young girl said with a faint voice:

“What do you wish to know?”

“Why did Ayaka…… turn out like that?”

Alice drooped her long eyelashes, looking as if she's thinking, and also looked like she was listening to a sound that she couldn't hear.

“…… Do you still remember what I've said before? A detective is the representative of the deceased, looking for lost words from their graves, hurting the living for the sake of protecting the honour of the deceased, and condemning the dead for the sake of consoling the living.”

“I remember.”

Alice opened her eyes.

“Then I'll ask you once again, my investigation might expose what Ayaka wanted to hide, or even destroy your ignorant but peaceful life. Do you still want to know in spite of that?”

Even so—

Even so, I--

“I still want to know.”

Alice gave a huge sigh.

“I understand, then I accept your request. You don't need to pay me, because I, too, wish to know the answer.”

I widened my eyes.

“…… Eh?”

“I've already figured out what you want to know, although all of this is too late……”

“The- then……”

Alice's sharp voice interrupted my words.

“Things are already clear, you don't need to ponder why Ayaka wanted to die, the thing that I wish to know of is not this.”

“What are you talking abo……”

“What I wish to know is, ‘Why did Ayaka choose to die at school’.”

I was momentarily dumbstruck, and couldn't understand what Alice wanted to say.

“The day before she committed suicide was Monday, and Ayaka didn't go to school, you know of this too. But according to witnesses, Ayaka went to school after school finished for some reason, and didn't go back home. On Monday night, Ayaka had already hidden herself on the rooftop, then waited until morning to commit suicide from the rooftop. Do you understand? Ayaka didn't just impulsively run to the school rooftop to commit suicide, but chose to commit suicide at the school rooftop from the start. Why did she do so?”

I felt a chill across my back.

The reason that she chose to die at school. Choosing…… the place that she'd die?

“I don't understand. I don't understand why Ayaka wanted to die at school, but I must know. So I need your help, as the person who's the closest with Ayaka these two months is you.”

“Me……? Why? Why do you want to know about this?”

Alice raised one side of her brows with her eyes widened, looking like she's angry or mystified.

“Why? Why do I want to know about this? You're asking me this question? You who wanted to know why Ayaka committed suicide, actually asked me this question?”

“Ah……”

“Just like you, I must know the reason why Ayaka committed suicide, because I should be able to prevent her from doing that. If I knew about this earlier, knowing much more, I could prevent Ayaka from committing suicide. It's my fault that Ayaka turned out like that. Even if things have already happened, I must know about that still, although it's already too late. If I don't do that, I will, I will……”

Alice made a sound as if she was forced into a corner and said repeatedly. I suppressed the emotions accumulated at my chest. What are the emotions that the young girl in front of me showed me? Nostalgia, pain and helplessness.

"Are you willing to help me? Let's just make it as the payment for your request."

Alice looked at me like a drowning person clutching at a straw, the faint rays of light, the stars in the glass, now looked as if they were going to shatter.

The hands stretched towards my hand—

And I took hold of it.

“I understand, so I'll be your assistant, right?”

Alice heard my answer, and a surprised expression surfaced on her face.

The cold fingers.

The wet eyes filled with darkness.

All of them melted in a warm smile.



Translator's Notes and References[edit]

  1. Naengmyeon: a type of noodles.


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