Kamisama no Memochou:Volume 2 Chapter 2

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Chapter 2[edit]

Knowing that I wouldn’t get a wink of sleep even if I went home anyways, I directly went to Hanamaru to check out the situation. The steel door of the ramen shop was unexpectedly half open even though it’s so early, and trapezium-shaped light shone on the gray asphalt road. Squatting down to look at the interior of the shop, I could see a silhouette with small braids walking in and out of the counter. It was Meo. What in the world is she doing at this time?

I really don’t know how to mention her father’s problem to her, and since I haven’t sorted out my own feelings yet, I really don’t feel like meeting her. However, Meo noticed me as I was about to leave, and she opened the door for me. By now, I couldn’t escape anymore.

“You’re up early, Mr. Assistant.”

“No, I just haven’t slept yet.”

In contrast with my mind, my body was already extremely tired, so I just sat down on the seat in the middle of the counter.

“Min-san is probably still sleeping, right?”

“No no, Min-san said that she always jogs at this time.”

Oh? She’s quite the athlete.

“In the end, I woke up too. I’m making breakfast right now. Do you want to eat, Mr. Assistant?”

I didn’t really notice until she mentioned it. A fragrant smell was indeed floating out from the kitchen, and made me feel somewhat hungry. I was taken aback by the huge appetite of Yi Ling-san and the others, so I only ordered coffee, but I’m feeling rather hungry right now.

“You cooked for me too?”

“Yeah, it’s going to be done soon.”

The bowl that she brought out was filled with clear soup, porridge, clams and prawns. It was also topped with sesame and leaves of spices. Although she didn’t use any special ingredients (I should mention that most of them were from Hanamaru), the fragrance of foreign cooking filled the shop. She called it Khao Tom, which probably means Thai porridge.

The next dish was a colorful veggie salad, emitting a sweet sour smell, and also had the fragrance of peppermint. This meal is actually quite rich for a breakfast.

“Your cooking is not bad.”

“That’s because I’m learning to be a good wife.”

While washing the pot, Meo answered while smiling. Is she serious or joking?

“How old are you, Meo?”

“Fourteen.”

She’s two years younger than me, but she seems to be more energetic than I am.

“As long as your parents agree, you can marry after two years. But you don’t have anyone you like, do you?”

“I do. My dad.”

The green pepper in the salad jammed into my windpipe at that instant, causing myself to hack violently. Meo immediately handed me a glass full of water. She’s so considerate. She’ll probably be a great wife in the future…… Ah, that’s not the point!

“…… Is it okay for you to still dream of being your father’s bride even though you’re already fourteen?”

“Why? We’re not related by blood, so we can marry!”

Eh, is that so?

“My real father died before I was given birth. My current dad met mom at Thailand, and they brought me to Japan after marrying there.”

Aside from the skin colour ,Meo’s features are actually quite similar to a Japanese person, I even thought that she came from mixed races. So since he’s a stepfather, then they can probably marry…… Wait, is that really the problem?

…… Maybe it’s this problem?

Though I wanted to comment that it wasn’t that right, I really don’ know how to say that.

“Hiro taught me too: ‘You can just become my adopted daughter, then you can marry your father.’ Then I’ll be both his daughter and his wife! He was very excited when he said that.”

What is that sex offender thinking of……

“But I don’t understand, why is Mr. Assistant so agitated too?”

Now that she mentioned it, I don’t really know myself. Well…… It’s just that…… Is that really okay!?

I swallowed my inexpressible feelings with the porridge, and calmed down after some time. Actually I don’t really have to be agitated, as it’s not my life anyways.

“I just don’t know if dad is willing to marry me.”

“You can say that again……” I would say that it’s almost impossible. “How old is your father?”

“Mnn…… About thirty eight? But the big sisters who live in the same building said that they cannot see that dad is already at that age. Let me tell you, dad’s face is as good looking as a mountain cat when he’s sleepy. I love dad’s sleepy face.”

What does that mean! What kind of sleepy face is that? No, I should say that it’s the first time I heard someone praising a man’s sleepy face. No matter what, this way of saying it is really rare.

“I was not that good at cooking before, but dad would still eat up all my cooking, which is why I decided to work at a restaurant to improve my cooking. Oh yeah, is it good?”

“Mnn, it’s great.”

Meo’s smiling face is just like a fresh tart, and made me rather envious of Kusakabe Masaya for a moment. He actually let such a girl bring along such a dangerous amount of money, where is he right now? What’s he up to?

I thought of ways to explain this dangerous situation. Things have changed so much that even yakuza are involved in it, and I felt moody just thinking about it. I really think it’s better if we could convince her to call the police.

“Actually I want to learn more dishes from mom…… Dad probably likes mom’s cooking best.”

It was as if Meo’s eyes was looking at the skies of Thailand far away. Her mother…… Didn’t she pass away already?

I suddenly remembered the guild that Yi Ling-san and Jennifer spoke of. They introduce Japanese men to the foreign women working in the country, did Kusakabe Masaya do that too?

“I saw it on a photo, the fact that I look exactly like my mother. So dad….. would probably like me…… right?”

Meo’s voice quavered, as if she didn’t have much confidence. Is that so?

“Did you tell your father about your thoughts?”

“No.”

“Maybe you should ask him after he comes back.” Perhaps she would get a scolding at that time?

“You say that like it’s really simple. If you can say these things so easily, there wouldn’t be so many troubled people in this world.”

Mnn, that might be so. I, myself, experienced that first hand in the incident that happened last winter, and I forgot all about it in the end because it didn’t affect me much. While I think about it, why am I chatting with a girl about these meaningless topics in the morning?

“I wonder where dad is right now……”

Meo sat down on the chair in the kitchen with her chin on the table.

“Do you know where he might be?”

Meo shook her head.

“I tried to call him from yesterday, but he didn’t answer.”

“That’s right, tell me your dad’s phone number. If his phone is on him, Alice might be able to find out his location.”

Meo widened her eyes. That’s quite an understandable reaction. But I’ve heard that after three years, people would be able to confirm the location of each phone by using the internet…… I just have this feeling that society would become even more perplexing that time.

“Oh, I see. I didn’t know that because I don’t have a phone.”

It’s rare for people not to have a phone these days.

“Dad says that children don’t need phones. After I grow up, he’ll give me back the phone that my mother used. But it’s no trouble even if I don’t have one, because the only person who I call is dad.”

Meo fluently read out her father’s phone number.

“…… Mnn?”

No phone?

I was lost in thought. Because I thought that having a phone was natural, I overlooked something. Kusakabe Masaya couldn’t contact Meo even if he wants to, while Meo can’t reach him as well.

It’s almost like……

“Mr. Assistant, what’s wrong?”

“…… Eh? Ah! No, it’s nothing. Sorry, please repeat the number again.”

It’s almost like Kusakabe Mayasa doesn’t want Meo to know where he is, but I can’t tell Meo about that.

I entered the phone number that Meo said into the phone. The numbers of three foreign women who works in a special profession and an ex-yakuza…… In just one night, my phone memory went through groundbreaking confusion.

“I just met Yi Ling-san and the others.”

“Were they worried of me?”

“Like a mother worried of her daughter.”

Meo showed me a smile, but her expression immediately clouded over again.

“ …… I want to go home.”

I hesitated for awhile, but decided to tell her the conversation with the others in the end:

“Jennifer said…… If we find your father, then go back to Thailand. Since something like this happened, you can’t go back to the company or your apartment anymore.”

Not only the company, they may even have trouble living in the Japanese society. After hearing my words, Meo just stared at the table without saying anything.

“It’ll be okay……”

She muttered while staring at the table:

“It’ll definitely be okay, he’ll definitely be back. The big sisters would be lonely without dad too.”

No, you don’t even understand what I’m saying.

“There’s no chance of recovery if the relationship is damaged even once.”

“There’s no such thing.”

Being rebuked at once made an indescribable depression surface in my heart. I think I’ve heard similar words somewhere recently.

That’s right, it was Alice. When we mentioned Ayaka, she said: “Don’t you believe in miracles?”

It isn’t really the problem of believing or not believing.

At that moment, my phone suddenly started to vibrate, and the noisy guitar music of ‘Colorado Bulldog’ started to blare from my phone, startling me so much that I almost dropped my phone.

“Hello......”

‘Why are you still dawdling down there? You should just come report at the office since you’re already here. Didn’t you just meet Meo’s neighbor?’

Really, so that girl is already awake. Or did she even sleep? I really don’t know what time she goes to bed.

“Alright, alright. I’m coming.”

I sighed and hung up.

“Miss Detective knows that Mr. Assistant is nearby? Does she have psychic powers?” How is that a psychic power?

“Although you wouldn’t notice from its appearance, actually there are surveillance cameras all around the building. If anyone comes, Alice would be able to see him from the screen in her room.”

“Oh, I see.”

Meo looked around, but actually there aren’t any surveillance cameras in the shop.

“Is Miss Detective timid?”

“Perhaps.”

What is Alice actually scared of? The whole world? Is that why she doesn’t go out?

Never mind, it doesn’t matter. It’s because of the fact that she doesn’t go out that I could help, albeit a bit.

*

“The circles under your eyes are really dark.”

Alice glanced at me from her bed, and immediately commented. Because I kept going here and there late night, my body has already frozen, and I almost couldn’t cope with the cold air-conditioner in the office.

“Is it really that bad?”

“It reminds me of the time you took the drug.”

Alice said that, and made me recall the red markings caused by the Angel Fix. Will I have bruises on my face if I don’t have enough sleep now? Please stop joking.

“If you still feel sleepy, then close your eyes and thank God for giving you a chance to sleep.”

She said somewhat unhappily, and turned around to face the keyboard again. The sound of the air conditioner interlaced with the light rhythm of Alice typing on the keyboard. I could still feel a hint of sleepiness, but it drifted about fifty centimeters above me, and doesn’t have any sign of descending on me.

“Alice, what time do you usually go to sleep?”

I suddenly thought of the question. As she’s a hikikomori, maybe she’s nocturnal?

“The moment when I sleep is when everyone in the world sleeps. If only there’s even a single person who may threaten me awake, I will not hand myself to sleep.”

“Er......”

I still don’t understand what she’s trying to say.

“That means that I almost never sleep. The longest time that I have slept is probably about an hour. Some doctors say that it’s an illness, while some doctors say that it’s a physical condition, then expressed their strong desire of wanting to do research on me. That was one of the reasons that I ran away from home.”

“Uh......” Is that problem really okay?

“Strictly speaking, it seems that my brain would go into a half-sleeping mode from time after time. Hmph, it’s the zenith of annoyance. That’s why my life is confined to this small area on my bed. The only time when I can get some rest is when I lie down while tightly holding Mocha Bear. Even then, the fluttering wings of a tiny bug could bring me out of my temporary respite.”

I looked at mocha bears that are much larger than Alice around her. I’ve remembered that Hiro once mentioned, if she didn’t have those bears, Alice wouldn’t be able to sleep. So this statement isn’t completely wrong.

Even if she is cooped up in her room, surrounded by a wall of bears of various sizes, she is still unable to fall asleep.

How would you explain that? It’s definitely an illness!

“To me, the people who would uncaringly hand one third of their time to the darkness are the ones who’s mystifying. Wouldn’t you feel uneasy? The god of slumber and the god of death are brothers in Greek mythology.”

“Do you feel uneasy? Are you that afraid of the things around you?”

“Yes.”

Alice finally stopped typing on her keyboard and looked at me.

“I am afraid of all the things in this world that I am unable to comprehend, preparing to make trouble at a place that I cannot see, expanding and engulfing me.”

“Oh......”

I subconsciously turned my head away.

I could feel it, she wasn’t joking.

“So you, who do not feel fear, just bluntly, lazily sleep without caring about your image.”

“I’m telling you that I can’t sleep!”

I kneeled in front of the bed and said:

“And I’m here to report to you.”

“Mnn, it seems so.”

“The people monitoring Meo’s house are indeed yakuza, and I’ve heard that they’re from Tabara-gumi.”

I repeated what Yi Ling-san, Hua-san and Jennifer told me.

“...... Hello Corporation is a puzzling company.”

“I still don’t know what the company does.”

“It’s a company that provides laborers on the surface, but actually most of the workers are women from south-east Asia and China, and they’re working in a ‘special’ trade. The reason for starting employment courses and so on, is probably for tax avoidance. If yakuza are involved too, it would be better to ask Yondaime.”

“But do we need to investigate the information about the company in such detail?”

Don’t we need to find Meo’s father first?

“The bag that Meo brought had two hundred million yen in it. How do you think that happened?”

“...... Didn’t he defalcate the company?”

“I don’t mean that, I’m asking why is it filled with cash worth two hundred million yen?”

I shook my head. I really don’t know what Alice is trying to say.

“Are you saying that there aren’t that much money in the company? Or are you saying that it’s strange for the company to have that much cash?”

“Those are my questions too, but not only that...... Forget it for now. The information that we have is too little. No matter what, the request that I accepted is to protect Meo and to save Kusakabe Masaya. We can’t just stop after we locate him, so we must first investigate what is happening with Hello Corporation.”

“...... Okay.”

It seems that I can’t help with this matter too. Even if I could, probably it’s just telling Meo the bad news? For example, when her father is proven to be a criminal.

Can I still be the assistant of the detective even then?

“Anyways, we have too little information. Indeed, we started the investigation later than Tabara-gumi, which is why they have more information than us. Thus, we can’t avoid them just because they’re yakuza. If we just investigate the company or the actions of the gang, we might be able to get some threads of information from them.”

“Ah, that’s right. She told me the phone number of her father just now.”

“I’ve already found out his number, and I’m investigating his phone log. Doing this needs a lot of time, if the phone has GPS function, it would be better to locate him.”

After hearing that, I lowered my head weakly. It it’s Alice, it’s not strange even if she checked the phone log from the start. But aside from the phone log...... Have we forgotten about something? What is it? While hugging my knees, I thought about the doubt in my heart, but I just couldn’t figure it out. A person like me, would I be in the heart of things, but still stare blankly with my mouth open like an idiot, looking at things until they turn into regret?

“What are you being autistic for?”

“I’m not being autistic.” I lied: “I’m just thinking, there’s really nothing that I can help with, even though I’m so free during the spring holidays and only work on Fridays and Saturdays......”

“Maybe I don’t sound convincing when saying this, but......”

Alice shrugged and said:

“Please don’t mind your position as a detective’s assistant too much. No matter you’re on tiptoes or is standing upside down, you’re still a high school student. But you’re just going to be a NEET after you graduate anyways, so I advise you to treasure your ordinary life right now.”

“Wow......”

I covered my face with my hand and said:

“Having my employer say that to me really makes myself, who’s in an abject situation although I’m still in the grace period of my ordinary life, lose hope for my future.”

“You can still visit Ayaka.”

My shoulders twitched for a moment. Alice stared at me with cold eyes and said:

“Why are you always so guarded each time you hear Ayaka’s name? Do you really hate visiting friends that much?”

“No, it’s not that I hate it...... It’s just that......”

From that day, I didn’t take even half a step into the hospital that Ayaka is staying at. I just couldn’t bear to see Ayaka slumbering with her eyes open, and I’m afraid that the miracle that made Ayaka open her eyes that day, is actually just a meaningless coincidence, so......

The black hair on the bed swayed slightly.

When I raised my head to take a look, I saw Alice laughing soundlessly.

“...... What are you laughing at?”

“Nothing. I just feel that you and I are very alike.”

I shook my head.

“Sorry, I’m just mocking myself, so you don’t need to think much about it. You don’t know if miracles could happen but you are afraid of losing it, while I know that the world don’t bear any hostility towards me but I am still afraid. But since you did not make fun of me, I will not make fun of you either.”

Alice’s words swirled in my mind, and I suddenly showed a relaxed expression and nodded to her.

Then, Alice turned her back against me, but the sound of her typing on the keyboard felt pleasing to my ears.

‘You say that like it’s really simple. If you can say these things so easily, there wouldn’t be so many troubled people in this world.’

I recalled Meo’s words. It is truly so.

Suddenly assaulted by a hint of sleepiness, I lied down on the bedside, drifting into dreamland.

*

I dreamt that I was chased by a large group of pink and purple bears.

“— Uwaaa!”

And I was woken up by my own shouts.

As I was about to raise my head, I felt something on the back of my head and my shoulders fall down. Eyes made of small black buttons were near my own eyes, shocking me into taking a step back subconsciously. It was after quite some time that I realized that it’s only a teddy bear.

The mat slid down from my back, and I sneezed because of the sudden chill. I fell asleep while lying on the bed, but was covered in bears of various sizes for some reason.

“So you’re finally awake.”

Raising my head, I saw Tetsu-senpai sitting at the edge of the bed, beside me.

Even in the cold air conditioned room, he was still wearing only a T-shirt. His strong chest and muscular arms made me think of the crowd of bears in my dream.

“Erm......”

“Saying that you can’t sleep but falling asleep right after that, you really are astounding. I applaud you.”

Alice said somewhat grumpily.

Ahh, so I fell asleep. As I was about to stand up, the wall of dolls surrounding me collapsed.

“...... What’s with all the dolls?”

“You were sleeping while mumbling something like patrasche and what what not, so I covered you with the mat, but you were STILL shivering. The problem is, there’s nothing else in my room that can be used to keep out the cold, and I couldn’t turn off my air conditioner, and it’ll be troublesome if you just freeze to death here, so that’s how it came to be.”

“Erm, Alice—”

“Since Narumi’s awake now, isn’t it better if we tell him to go to the gang’s place?”

Tetsu-senpai cruelly interrupted my words.

“Mnn, that’s true, it is better this way.”

A gang? They aren’t talking about Tabara-gumi, are they?

“I’m thinking of asking Hirasaka-gumi for help, but their inbox can’t be opened. It seems that the machine broke down. You’re probably more suitable than Tetsu for this job, so inform them about this while checking out what’s wrong with their computer.”

Oh...... So they’re referring to Hirasaka-gumi. Now I have to go to the gang’s office again.

But it can’t be help, I’m indeed the most suitable candidate. As I suddenly had a new job, sleepiness gradually left me.

“I’ll check out the police station, and maybe ask the delinquents over there if they know anything.”

Apparently, Tetsu-senpai knows the police quite well.

“But this matter isn’t really a case, so if the police got to know what is happening at Hello Corporation, it would go against our client’s wishes. But of course, getting new information is nice. So what do you plan to do?”

“I’ll think of something. Narumi, let’s go!”

Still somewhat sleepy, I was dragged out of the office by Tetsu-senpai.

As soon as I walked out of the room, rays of sunlight pierced my eyes. It’s about noon right now, isn’t it? Is this what they mean by a scorcher? I should really avoid burning the midnight oil......

Tetsu-senpai grabbed my collar while walking down the stairs. Eh, what is is? Is he angry? Did I do anything wrong?

“Senpai......”

“You slept in Alice’s room two times, didn’t you......?”

Senpai said in a low voice. When I think about it, it seems that way. Though I didn’t really fall asleep that time, but was unconscious due to the drug, but what about it?

“Why is that so, perhaps you have something special to you?”

Tetsu-senpai didn’t even glance at me, but continued to mutter to himself. I still don’t understand what’s going on.

“Never mind.”

When we reached the end of the staircase, senpai finally looked at me.

“Oh yeah, Narumi, lend me some money!”

Is it me, or is the change of topic too sudden?

“Refused.”

“Please, I’m really confident with the Sakura Gallery. I’ll give you back double the money.”

“The problem is I don’t have any money, why don’t you borrow from Alice? She’s quite rich, actually.”

“How can I do something that embarrassing?”

And borrowing from me isn’t!?

“Really, I wonder how much money we can get from this case......”

“Tetsu-senpai, have you heard about the case this time?”

“I’ve heard all about it when you were sleeping. Meo’s problem, the matter about the Boston bag...... Ah!”

Tetsu-senpai suddenly widened his eyes. At that instant, I immediately knew what he was thinking of.

I ran past the kitchen backdoor and entered the house behind the ramen shop before Tetsu-senpai could have the chance. “Narumi, what are you doing, it’s so noisy!” even though Min-san’s scoldings could be heard, I ignored it. Meo was sitting in the house while holding a steel pan with her legs crossed, using an electronic mixer to blend fresh butter.

“Meo, hurry up and hide the bag!”

“What?”

Suddenly hearing my shouts, a surprised expression appeared on Meo’s face. Then, Tetsu-senpai pushed me away from the back and stepped into the corridor.

“Meo, can you lend me some money?”

“No, dad said to me not to have any money transactions with other people.”

“Then it’s okay even if you don’t lend me, you can just pretend that it’s an investment, I guarantee you that the money would increase twentyfold after the Sakura Gallery next week.”

“Wait...... Tetsu-senpai, what are you saying!?”

“Sakura Gallery—?”

“That’s right. It’s like this. Eighteen horses run around a large field for one and a half minute, then the money will increase.”

Isn’t that a bit too brief!

“Oh, so it’s horse racing, dad told me about that many times. He said that many people who need money would always borrow money from him on each Friday during the days when he was still a yakuza, and later he could even tell this type of people from their eyes.”

Meo used her large, innocent eyes to look at Tetsu-senpai, and made him feel flustered, while I couldn’t even get a word in.

The tense atmosphere disappeared with the severe pain that assaulted the back of my head, and I could see stars dancing around my head.

“What in the word are you guys up to? Narumi, don’t you need to work today? Stop being an eyesore here and get out!”

Min-san grabbed my collar with the hand she used to hit Tetsu-senpai and I and threw me out of the house. Why did I get beaten up too! It’s a pity that I don’t even have a chance to protest.

*

Hirasaka-gumi is a self-proclaimed chivalrous organization, and speaking of what they do, they just (try to) deal with the street fights in a mild manner, taking care of the whole city like this. To be exact, they’re just NEET delinquents.

Many shops around this area has the Hirasaka-gumi emblem on it, for instance clubs, stores for sports goods, boutiques and so on. If you look closely at the corner of their signboards, you would probably see sticker with a swallowtail butterfly, the emblem of the Taira clan, on it.

It is said that these shops had connections to Hirasaka-gumi from the time the shops opened, but I, as a high school student, only heard rumors about this. In reality, the only person who’s doing everything is Yondaime, the leader of the gang. The other members always look very free, cooped up in their office all day.

Because of Alice’s request, I had to go use the creaking elevator to get to the third floor of the broken down building, nervously open the iron door that the signboard of Hirasaka-gumi is hanging on, and then I saw the office stuffed full of members wearing black T-shirts.

“Err, Alice told me to come…..”

As soon as they saw me, almost all of them sprang up from the sofa. About eight people or so.

“A- Aniki, thanks for your hard work!” “Thanks for your hard work!”

These people should be older than me, and yet because of various incidents that happened in the last case, I am now worshipped by these people as their aniki. Most of the members in Hirasaka-gumi are very strong, so when they bowed at the same time, I just couldn’t help but take a few steps back.

However, I couldn’t see the two who are particularly muscular among them, Rocky and Pole, meaning that Yondaime is probably not here right now. Those two are bodyguards, so they usually tag along his side.

“We’re waiting for you, let’s start.”

“Eh? Wh- What?”

“It’s too dangerous.”

“Good thing aniki is here, now we can take it easy.”

I didn’t even know what was happening, but I was dragged to the dark study of the office. There were a wardrobes, bookshelves and a small bed used for resting, and there was a small table with an old computer on it further inside.

“I don’t know how to explain, but it just refuses to move.” One of them said to me.

“No matter how hard we hammered it, flipped it over, pulled the plug out and in again, it’s useless, so we could only ask for ane-san or aniki for help.”

What kind of idiot would think of hammering it? What if it breaks down!

Windows of Internet Explorer kept opening in the screen, filled the taskbar with numerous windows. This is a computer virus that’s lurking in the dark recently, and is a notorious, aggressive and indelible virus. But if they didn’t open any strange files, the computer probably wouldn’t get the virus that easily.

“Which website were you on when the comp got infected?”

“Eh? About that….. No clue.”

They seemed to be smiling shyly like they were hiding something.

“This virus isn’t really special technically, so there’s little chance of being infected. What did you do online?”

“Oh, nothing really. Nono, we didn’t do anything.”

“Of course we didn’t search for a pornographic website.”

“And didn’t click on a hyperlink that said ‘180 minutes of uncensored blonde babe’.”

I sighed. I really should’ve installed an internet child safety firewall before this.

“We can only reset the computer. The data inside would all disappear, is that alright?”

“What? We put in so much effort to search for an uncensored website too!”

“Idiot, don’t speak of that!”

“No- no problem. Please take care of it before Sou-san comes back.”

Oh, I see. They’ll probably get scolded if Yondaime saw that. No wonder they’re so agitated. I heaved a long sigh again and sat in front of the computer.

When Yondaime returned, I was just reinstalling the programs in the operating system. The lackeys cheered beside me “As expected of aniki!” “The speed of aniki using the mouse is so quick that I can’t even see it clearly!” Can’t you guys pipe down? It’s distracting.

“Sou-san! Th- th- thanks for your hard work!” “Thanks for your hard work!”

As soon as they heard the sound from the door, the lackeys who were around me rushed to greet Yondaime.

“Gardening Club kid, what are you doing here?”

While walking into the study, Yondaime glared at me, as if his ferocious gaze was telling me that he’ll cut off my finger if I move.

While walking into the study, Yondaime glared at me, as if his ferocious gaze was telling me that he’ll cut off my finger if I move. He wore a crimson Chinese-styled coat with a picture embroidered on it. If other young people wore it, they would probably be said as showing off, but on this person, it feels rather scary. (I recently heard that the picture embroidered on the coat was sewed by Yondaime himself, so the fact that his sewing skills are at professional level is true.) Rocky and Pole stood behind him, the broadest and tallest men in the gang respectively.

“Well— it seems like the computer has gone haywire.”

The lackeys standing behind Yondaime were pleading with their palms closed, so I didn’t speak the truth.

Yondaime showed an uncaring expression and sat behind the short bookshelf behind me.

He unwillingly thanked me.

“Erm, I’m thinking of limiting the usage of the computer so that people wouldn’t just use the computer as they like. Yondaime, so that you’ll be the only one to use the computer, can you please decide on a password?”

“Didn’t I tell you not to call me that?” He glared at me. Then how should I call you? You’re not telling me to call you Hina, are you? I’ll probably get beaten to death.

“I’m not really good at these things, so just do as you like!”

“Even so, there should still be someone who knows how to operate all the functions!”

“Isn’t it okay if aniki could use it?” Pole said.

“I’m not even one of your members……”

And if it’ll be hectic if I keep getting called here when the computer has a problem.

“Sou-san, what do you think? Why don’t you just use this chance to undergo the sake ceremony with aniki?” Rocky said. I nearly fainted. What is this guy saying!? Yondaime glared at Rocky while frowning, but the other lackeys completely ignored our reactions, and started to get excited.

“Aniki is good at computers, and he’s got brains too.”

“And he’s manly!” “I’ll follow aniki forever.”

Wait a sec, what’s with this situation!? Gimme a break!

“Shut up!”

Yondaime’s roar made the excited lackeys shut their mouths immediately.

“What are you guys thinking of? And this guy is still a high schooler too!”

You can’t enter the gang if you’re not a NEET, it is said that it’s the principle of their leader, Yondaime; And I don’t want to enter anyways. But Rocky said at this moment:

“Really? But I heard Major and Tetsu-san(?) saying that his attendance is lacking and fails almost all of his tests, and is almost confirmed to be kicked out of school……”

Don’t listen to those idiots!

“If aniki joins us, it’ll be an instant boost of our strength.”

“So noisy. Oi, Gardening Club kid! Hurry up and get into the main topic if you’re finished with that.”

“…… Ah, yes, okay.”

I handed the copy of information I got from Alice to Yondaime, a photo of what looks like a clever man was printed on it. That person is Meo’s father— Kusakabe Masaya’s photo that Yi Ling-san saved in her phone, I told her to send it to me. You really can’t tell that he’s almost forty.

Just like last time, I edited the photo to emphasize his face, and his face is really the cat-type.

Yondaime glanced at the photo for a moment and immediately passed it to the others.

“Make five hundred copies of this!”

“Understood! I shall go hone my manly aura right away!”

After some detailed instructions, the lackeys left the room. It’s hard to imagine how quick the bunch of idiots from just now could finish their work that quickly. As long as their leader is present, all of them would become uptight.

When only two of us were left, Yondaime turned around and said while looking at me:

“I’ll distribute the photos to the people around this neighborhood, and tell them to keep an eye open, but we can’t continue the investigation if there’s no more evidence. I’ll take a look at manga stores or hostels and so on, Alice should know that, right?”

“She said that would be enough.”

Actually, it seems that Alice wants to know about the condition of Hello Corporation more. To the NEET detective who doesn’t go out, collecting information from yakuza on the internet is much easier than doing a thorough search on the streets.

“Hello Corporation borrowed money from financial companies when it first opened, so I advise you to hand the money and the cash to the police if you don’t want to get hurt.”

“Financial companies?”

“They’re the companies who target people who can’t borrow money from the bank, underground companies who sometimes charge tenfold for their interest. Those people are important sources of money, and they even have close connections with Tabara-gumi, so it’s best if you don’t get involved.”

So it’s really not a normal company. I recalled the two men chasing me at Hello Company and suddenly felt a chill on my back. If I was caught by them at that time, I wonder what would happen to me now? I might not get off the hook with just injuries. But—

“But Alice said that this is a request.”

“You’ll save anyone just because you accepted the request? They’re not even related to you.”

“Does that mean that you don’t save people unrelated to you?”

“The only people that I will help unconditionally are limited to my people and the friends of my people. We should have a suitable borderline, or it’ll be never ending. How many people on this street do you think have been forced to a corner?”

There are about six billion people in this world. Saving all of them, not even God can do that, but……

“Alice…… She really plans to save all of humanity.”

“I know, she’s an idiot.”

I recalled what Alice had said.

‘…… escaping my own helplessness, escaping the world that continues to be lost because of my uselessness…… But even so, I still cannot find the answer.’

It’s not because of pity or her sense of justice, the detective only tries to solve the mystery entangling her clients to deny her own helplessness.

“Tetsu and Hiro help just because they like it, too. What a bunch of idiots.”

Yondaime breathed in deeply, then stood up and said:

“What about you?”

His words pierced deeply into my heart. Why am I taking action? Yondaime is asking me that. But the most regretful thing is, I could not find a suitable answer.

“Because…… I’m Alice’s assistant.”

The reason that I said after some thought was that. That’s not an answer at all.

Yondaime could probably sense that it’s a meaningless excuse as well.

“Being a layman, you shouldn’t push yourself so much. If a fight really happens, it’ll be troublesome to us as well. So you should tell us the moment you feel something’s wrong.”

“Ah…… Alright.”

Yondaime was about to walk out of the study, but I suddenly halted him. He glared at me as he turned around, making me regret calling him.

“What?”

“…… Yondaime, why are you helping us?”

You’re not even related to us.

“I’m not helping you. I’m helping Alice.”

That’s true.

“Also…… I owe you a favor.”

I suddenly felt confused, and blankly stared at Yondaime’s mouth.

“…… Ah, no, isn’t that matter already……”

“I mean what I said, it isn’t something you decide on.”

Why am I being threatened? While thinking about that, I curled up in fright.

“Just scram if there’s nothing else!”

As I was about to walk out of the study with Yondaime, the blaring ringtone of ‘Colorado Bulldog’ started to ring.

‘Bad news. I asked Hiro to check out a few of Hello Corporation’s shops, and their people are everywhere. They are truly looking for Kusakabe Masaya because they think that he ran off with the money. A lady working at a pub even heard the yakuza discussing ‘a bag that can fill two hundred million yen’, so these people are probably looking for Meo too.’

Alice said coolly, as if she knew that it would turn out like this from the start.

“…… Then what should we do?”

‘What do you mean what should we do? I just want to complete my mission. After we locate Kusakabe Masaya, we hand him to Meo, and the rest is up to Meo, as a person harboring a criminal can’t really be blamed if he’s related to the person.’

“Mnn……”

I hung up with a heavy heart. The person who would be in charge of telling Meo would probably be me, huh?

Yondaime forcefully pushed me out of the steel door and walked out, locked it and said:

“You’re not suited for these things. You should just stop.” He said in a low voice.

“…… Why do you say that?”

“The most important thing when you encounter these annoying problems, is that you must be determined to finish it from the start. A person who doesn’t have a strong resolve would just cause problems.”

While waiting for the elevator, I repeatedly pondered Yondaime’s words. Yondaime’s borderline is very clear. He would help his people and the friends of his people no matter what, and ignore the rest. What about me? For instance, if Meo asked me to help her to hide her father or help her criminal father escape, what would I do?

I really don’t know. I would probably just let Alice handle it, while I’d probably just stay out of it? Because I’m just an assistant— this sentence is so convenient that it’s shameful.

“That’s why I’m saying that you can’t do it.”

As soon as the elevator door opened, Yondaime kicked me inside.

“You….. seem rather friendly today……” I said while rubbing my bottom.

“Huh?”

I curled up my whole body after being glared at by the sharp, wolf-like gaze. A cheeky person who doesn’t have strong resolve, would indeed only drag them down. The strong sense of disgust directed at myself rose up from my body, and felt like it’s forcibly stuffed down my lungs with the help of the accelerating elevator.

I parted with Yondaime after walking out of the building and walked down the slope alone. Walking to the sidewalk beside the road that was in a traffic jam, I supported myself on the railings and sighed, as I finally solved a troublesome matter. But at least I could still do these things, which made me feel that I’m not really that useless.

*

“Ming Hai! Over here!”

Separated by a sidewalk that was crowded with a lot of people, Yi Ling-san noticed me and waved at me while holding her phone. The person who asked me out to the crowded bus stop at the west exit of the station on this Sunday afternoon was Yi Ling-san. She wore a yellow shirt that showed her shoulders with a pair of jeans. Her casual appearance was very different from what she wore at night.

“I wasn’t being followed, so it should be okay.”

Yi Ling-san came closer to my side and grabbed my hand after saying that. Not expecting her action, I nearly fell down.

“It looks like those people are looking desperately for Meo, so we must be more careful.”

“Eh? Ah, that’s right.”

“You probably haven’t had lunch yet, right? I’ll treat you.”

Though I wasn’t too hungry, we decided to go to Rodran Coffee Shop. As it’s still noon, there were a lot of people in the shop. I ordered only coffee ole and sandwiches, found a table by the windows, then Yi Ling-san walked over while holding a platter full of food, as usual.

“These are Meo’s clothes, the ones that you asked me to get.”

“Sorry for the trouble.”

Yi Ling-san and I sat opposite to each other, and she handed me a large paper bag. As I wasn’t able to sneak into Meo’s house yesterday, I handed the keys to Yi Ling-san and asked her to get Meo a change of clothes.

“I was just about to go out, and the yakuza came over again. I just live next to them coincidentally! They’re really troublesome, so I told them that I was in a hurry and ran out.”

“What did they ask you?”

“They asked me, what did you say yesterday? Are you keeping something for someone? Do you know where he’s hiding, and so on. They also asked about Meo, because they know that our relationship is quite good. Shouldn’t we tell Meo to call the police? But she’ll get into trouble too…… But not doing that might be even more troublesome…… Hmm……”

“Meo detests the police.”

“I dislike the police as well.”

Yi Ling-san covered her face and shook her head violently.

To them, the Japanese police aren’t people who just protect them, but……

I hesitated for awhile, then told her about the Boston bag. Yi Ling-san pressed her forehead with her hand and sighed.

“So he really did defalcate the company?”

Taking the company’s money and hiding it at home, but failed, so he told his daughter to take away the money. This is actually quite a simple story, but if this became reality, Meo would become an accomplice (even if it wasn’t deliberate). When I started to ponder about the question, Yi Ling-san suddenly asked:

“Would that be our wages this month?”

“…… What?”

“Kusakabe-san gives us our wages himself each month, so it wouldn’t be strange even if there’s some cash at home. And you’re talking about a Boston bag, right? I saw that before this.”

“Eh? Really?”

“Yeah, Kusakabe-san brought the Boston bag to the company sometimes. Because we learned Japanese using post, Kusakabe-san compiled our syllabus each month. I originally thought that he used the Boston bag to bring those to the company.”

Which means, he brought back the wages in the bag after leaving the company?

“But…… it’s about two hundred million yen in total…..”

“Almost all of the people living in that building are employees, so it’s about right……”

Yi Ling-san stared at the sky while counting on her fingers, then heaved a sigh.

“Two hundred million yen is still too much.”

And they even let people see the bag that holds the money? What a strange company.

“Don’t you all have bank accounts?”

“Don’t you look down on us!” Yi Ling-san laughed while flicking on my forehead: “We keep the money in the bank after getting them. After deducting some automated charges, we have to send some money home; so probably there’s not even half left. What a meaningless procedure.”

“Then why are they giving you cash?”

“I don’t know either.”

“Would that be……” because it’s easier to defalcate the company this way?

For example, even if it’s their wages, he used his daughter to get the money from his house and run away, so there’s probably still some hanky panky going on.

“You look like you’re being suspicious of everything.”

Well…..

“It’s because I’m a detective……’s assistant.”

Yi Ling-san laughed heartily, but her laughter soon stopped.

“I really don’t understand. Why did that guy tell her daughter to do such a dangerous thing? He’s wanted by the yakuza too.”

“…… Why is the yakuza looking for Meo too?”

“You’re asking me?”

“If it really is the company’s money, then how does it concern the yakuza?”

“Perhaps the company hired yakuza to help?”

“Then why didn’t they just call the police?”

“Hmm…… Yeah— you have a point.”

Yi Ling-san spaced out while biting her straw.

“Is it because they don’t want the public to know? Or that might not be our company’s money at all, but the yakuza’s money? But Kusakabe-san shouldn’t be able to use the gang’s money…… I really don’t understand.”

I suddenly thought about Meo who was happily mixing the butter behind the kitchen of Hanamura Ramen Shop and felt a chill on my back. A young girl who doesn’t know anything that has a bomb-like amount of money on her hands, is now in our hands.

“Please protect Meo.”

Yi Ling-san pleaded in a low voice. I lightly nodded, but I didn’t really feel confident about that.

*

It was about two when I finally reached Hanamaru Ramen Shop. I feel like I’m practically living here right now. While I think about it, I didn’t go home for two days straight, my sis would probably give me a huge scolding soon.

Although lunch time was about to end, there’s unexpectedly still three customers sitting on the tables. Min-san looked quite busy cooking.

Walking into Min-san’s living room and storeroom from the kitchen back door, I couldn’t see Meo anywhere.

“Min-san, do you know where Meo is right now?”

With her back against me, Min-san answered with her eyes glued to the fire:

“Ah, Meo is at Alice’s place.”

“What?”

I pressed the doorbell of room 308, but there wasn’t an answer. Usually, a blue light would light up, but at this moment only the sound of flowing water came from the room.

Flowing water?

Then, there came a voice saying “Coming, coming— please wait for a moment”. I was startled, and took a step back. It was Meo’s voice.

Meo opened the door and poked her face out of the door. Her hair was wet, the slight steam her body was giving off smelled of soap, while a large towel was wrapped around her body. My hand held the handle, while my body froze.

“Meo, don’t open the door when you don’t even know who’s there, you’re too careless! And my hair isn’t clean yet, hurry up and help me. Uwaa! Shampoo trickled into my eyes, MEO!”

Alice’s hysterical voice came from the room, asking for help.

“Okay, okay. Ah! Would that be my clothes, by any chance?”

She pointed at the paper bag on my hands.

“This…… Er, ah , yes…… That’s right.”

“Thank you. Miss Detective is angry right now, so I’ll have to close the door. Mr. Assistant, you can come in and wait for awhile.”

I was about to say that it’s better if I wait outside, but I was forcefully dragged into the room with the paper bag. Light could be seen from the bathroom close to the entrance (first time seeing that). I accidentally saw long, black hair full of bubbles, so I hastily turned around and stuck my face to the wall.

“Sorry, I’ll wash your hair now!” Meo went back to the washroom, and I heard the sound of the misty glass door closing.

“Miss Detective, don’t move around so much!”

“Uuuu— my eyes hurt!”

An incomprehensible conversation came from the other side of the fog.

` In my sixteen years of living, I have never felt as uncomfortable as I am right now. The six minutes filled with the sounds of splashing water were probably the longest six minutes in my whole life.

“Since you’ve waited until we finished bathing, you should probably have something to report, right? Hurry up, then.”

Sitting on Meo’s thighs, Alice’s tone was extremely annoyed. Of course, both of them are now fully clothed. Meo used a large towel to wrap Alice’s head and rubbed repeatedly.

“Miss Detective’s hair is very long, so it’s hard to take care of it.”

“It’ll dry naturally if you just leave it alone.”

“You’ll get sick like that.”

Does everyone feel like playing with Alice as soon as they see her?

…… I feel like I saw this scene somewhere before. Does everyone feel like playing with Alice as soon as they see her?

“Narumi, stop thinking about Ayaka and start reporting!”

Her pointed remark made me curl up my body. Why is this girl’s sixth sense so accurate when it comes to meaningless things, really…...

“Ayaka?” Meo cocked her head.

“She’s just like you, a girl who likes to wash and comb my hair.”

Eh? So she once bathed with Ayaka?

“I heard that Miss Detective doesn’t know how to take baths.” Meo explained: “Usually Min-san would bathe with her every two days, and help her to wash her hair. But Min-san seemed to be rather busy today, so I volunteered to come.”

“That’s enough. If Master is busy, she should directly forget about my hair.”

I was completely ignorant towards how busy Min-san was. And really, this girl’s capability to survive is almost zero……

“Narumi, what are you here for! Are you here to see my wet look so that you can make fun of me?”

“Ah, no, sorry.” I waved my hands in denial. As they didn’t look nervous at at, it almost made me forget the reason that I was here.

“I heard something from Yi Ling-san about the company, and I was thinking of telling you about that.”

I reported the information about Kusakabe Masaya handing the people in Hello Palace their wages personally, thinking that it probably isn’t related to the case. However, Alice’s gaze immediately sharpened after hearing that.

“She told you that Kusakabe Masaya gave out the wages personally? Are you sure?”

“…… Yeah.”

“So that’s how it is. Which means— UWAA!”

“Dad wouldn’t pocket the employee’s wages, definitely not!”

Meo said while tightly hugging Alice.

“Le- Let go of me, it hurts! I didn’t even say anything like him pocketing the employee’s wages!”

Because of Alice’s frantic struggles, the large towel fell down from her head.

“Even so, no matter how we think…… I think the results would be as we expected.”

“Narumi, don’t jump to conclusions so quickly……” Unexpectedly, Alice was standing at Meo’s side. “There are a few problems regarding the theory that Kusakabe Masaya defalcated the company. Firstly, the structure of the company isn’t so big that someone could just pocket two hundred million yen. Apart from that, the money is in cash. Besides that, the yakuza are looking for two hundred million yen, which matches the sum of money in the bag. But how did they know how much money was in it? Even if the pocketed money was confirmed by the company to be two hundred million yen, why is the money still here?”

“Ah……”

She was right. It’s indeed strange.

“Of course, there is a possibility that Kusakabe Masaya’s hobby is saving money, or he likes to smell the money……” “My dad isn’t that kind of crazy person!” “Saving the money because of certain reasons, but couldn’t use it because the amount of money is too large…… These reasons are plausible too, but there’s now a fact that overturns these assumptions— the fact that only the yakuza are looking for Meo and Kusakabe Masaya.”

“Then……” I don’t really want to think about this possibility: “Maybe he kept money for Tabara-gumi, then he ran away with it……”

I felt Meo staring daggers at me.

“There’s that possibility too. If so, the question why he’s keeping money for yakuza would arise once more. Anyhow, the information that we have is insufficient. Thinking about this is my job, so you can stop making unnecessary assumptions, and do your own job.”

She actually said that I’m doing unnecessary assumptions. Alright, alright. I’m an idiot anyways.

“…… Then my job is?”

“Call the lady, Yi Ling. Ask her who’s she paying the automated charges each month. Or how she sends her money back to China. If there’s a chance, then ask her about the other people living in Hello Palace.”

“…… What?”

Alice told me the things that I should ask in a rapid fire tone, but I don’t get it at all. The public facilities maintenance fees, administrative fees, rental fees and even how much money Yi Ling-san and the others send home, are those even remotely connected to the case?

“It’s because we don’t know if they’re related that we should investigate it. Just hurry up and call her.”

When Major arrived at the NEET Detective Agency, I was just using the fax machine in the room to receive the copy of Yi Ling-san’s savings in the bank that she just faxed over.

“Why is there a faint smell of soap in the air? Vice Admiral Fujishima, please explain yourself!”

He immediately pressed a model gun onto the back of my head as soon as he came in. Ahhhh, another noisy fellow came in.

“You didn’t answer your phone at all yesterday, where did you go?”

“I was in a late night skirmish at Takadanobaba, but then the police came; I was just about to explain the dangers of having a gunfight in the streets, then I was brought to the police station with five of my mates. Hmph, the police are indeed useless.”

You’ll definitely get arrested that way. Are you an idiot? When I turned my head around, I saw a young man clad in military clothing, while his figure looked like that of a primary school student. It’s really surprising that someone like this is actually a college student. Major pushed his goggles onto his helmet, then looked into the bedroom.

Meo was hugging Alice tightly, as though she wanted to protected from an assault, and stared at Major guardedly.

“Meo, don’t just keep hugging my neck all of a sudden, are you trying to throttle me?”

“Because there’s a suspicious person here.”

“It’s okay, his attire can’t be compared with the weirdness in his heart, so just relax.”

Was…… Was she even trying to defend him?

“So you’re the client this time? I’m Major. Vice Admiral Fujishima’s superior.”

“I felt something strange from before, but isn’t a Vice Admiral superior to a Major?”

“That’s why they say rookies don’t know anything.”

Major showed us a casual expression while shaking his head, then placed his gun into his backpack.

“Actually, a Major has the most authority in the army, it’s common knowledge. For instance, the Major in ‘The Last Army’ unhesitatingly killed his superiors.”

“Isn’t that a manga?”

“In the later stages of war in A Baoa Qu, didn’t the Major kill the Major General? But he wasn’t even interrogated.”

“That’s an anime!” And also it’s because he lost the war.

“Oh yeah, did you guys find out where the office of Tabara-gumi is?”

Completely ignoring my objections, Major changed the topic.

“Investigation must start from spying. Look at the pin-shaped spying device, compared to the ones last year, it’s ability to receive sound and lasting power has already tripled.”

Major took out some suspicious devices from his backpack and arranged them on the ground.

“So Miss Detective is friends with a lot of bad people……” Meo said in a low voice.

“This job can’t be done by the kind common people. Major, you should know the address of the company, right? Then set it up there first. Though we only found out one of the locations of Tabara-gumi.” Major recorded the address that Alice said in his phone. “Tabara-gumi is a yakuza gang at the bottom of the yakuza hierarchy, but if they have connections with other gangs of a higher rank , the time required for the investigation would increase drastically.”

“There’s no problem even if we need to set up one or two hundred spying devices, but we need someone to listen to and reorganize the information, and I can’t help out with that. So we can only set it up at two places, at most. That’s my job anyways.”

“We would know the identity of the people related to this if only we know the source of the money. They probably know more about Kusakabe Masaya, too. Compared with chasing a hidden rabbit, it would be easier to follow the hunting hounds…… Mnn.”

Tearing down the paper from the fax machine, Alice looked through the contents for a few seconds, crumpled it up and threw it to her pillow, saying:

“Kusakabe Masaya did not take anyone’s money.”

“Really?”

Meo and I said at the same time.

“Don’t get so happy so soon.”

Alice pressed her head on Meo’s chest as she started hugging Alice tightly again.

“If my assumption is correct, defalcating the company wouldn’t be so troublesome. What a pity.”

“What…… does that mean?”

The problem is, Alice would just say the lines that detectives from anywhere, anytime to answer my questions (as usual)—

“I can’t disclose that information as of now.”

I sighed impatiently. Alice continued:

“I’ve mentioned this before, the truths that I got to know is only a portion of what is in God’s notebook, and is completely meaningless to the common man. To make it into valuable facts, we need to give more effort.”

“…… Mr. Assistant, can you translate for me? My dad didn’t do anything wrong, right?”

Meo said on top of Alice’s head.

“That means that we don’t have enough evidence, so we aren’t sure yet.”

After hearing my statement, Major nodded and stood up.

“Then I shall go forward and put in my best efforts. I’ve been late because there weren’t any incidents lately, but I feel excited when I think that I can try out my new works! I guarantee you that I would even clearly record how many times the yakuza hiccupped for you to listen to.”

After randomly saying some dangerous actions, the silhouette clad in military clothing disappeared out of the room. Alice said:

“Narumi, please remember that we do not need facts in the case this time.”

“…… What?”

“The case this time is different from what happened in Angel Fix. Our job is to protect Meo and to locate Kusakabe Masaya, isn’t that right?”

Alice raised her head to look at me, while Meo nodded in my stead.

“So we don’t need to worry about digging out the truth from the grave. If the case requires it, you must be prepared mentally for the truth and facts to get twisted.”

“Do you mean making decisions without evidence?”

“You really are a person who only knows literary works.”

About these matters, I already decided to do so even though I have not resolved to do it. I am different from Alice, I don’t have a need to know every single thing, it’s just that I don’t know what I should do. And only at these moments, I would admire Alice for her resolve.

“If so, then take Meo back to Master’s room.”

“That won’t do, I haven’t dried your hair yet.”

“You hear that? She actually said something like that. I explained quite a few times that having hot wind blown on one’s face is very painful, but she just wouldn’t listen. Really……”

But I didn’t listen to Alice’s instructions this time. Isn’t it better for Meo to finish taking care of her hair before leaving?

“Oi, let go of me, Meo! Narumi, don’t move, why aren’t you listening to me!?”

Ignoring the noisy Alice in Meo’s hands, I walked out of the office.

*

What should we do next? While walking down the stairs, I thought of what we could do, but it really seems that there’s nothing else to do anymore. The small, dark space behind the kitchen backdoor was deserted, and that made me somewhat depressed. So I’m a person who doesn’t know what to do if other people don’t order me around.

Although I don’t have to work today (As I’m still on probation, I only need to work on Fridays and Saturdays), but since I was free anyways, I’d just go help out Min-san. As I was about to open the backdoor, my phone started to ring.

‘Narumi, please help me.’

Tetsu-senpai’s agitated voice came from the phone all of a sudden.

“Wha- What’s wrong?”

It was the first time I heard Tetsu-senpai so agitated.

‘Where are you right now? At Hanamaru?’ “Eh? Yeah……” ‘I’ll tell you my location, just come here quickly!’ “Ah, wa- wait a sec……”

Tetsu-senpai started to tell me the address. I could hear the voice of another man near him, and there are also the sounds of things colliding. What’s wrong? Where in the world is he?

‘Don’t mention this to anyone, or I’ll get killed. Thanks for the help.’

He said something scary, then hung up. Though my question and queasiness swirled in my mind, I immediately started to pedal my bike.

The building that senpai mentioned was a journey of about five minutes from Hanamaru Ramen Shop on my bike. As there weren’t any notable shops or anything nearby, I only managed to find it after some effort. I rushed to the top of the seven storey building and pressed the doorbell of room 701.

A pale man of about forty could be seen from the gap that opened. His lower eyelid sagged, and there was a deep scar beside his mouth and nose. I was so taken aback that I took quite a few steps back until my back bumped into the wall.

“Tetsu, he’s a kid?”

The man looked back into the room and said.

“He’s the guy I mentioned, let him in.”

Tetsu-senpai’s voice came from the room, causing me to almost fall down onto the floor with relief after I heard it. That’s a relief, he’s still alive.

The man pulled down the door chain and opened the door wide, poking his head out to observe the corridors, then glared at me while raising his chin, telling me to go in.

“Come in!”

“Eh? Ah, erm……”

“Hurry up!”

I stepped into the room with my whole body rigid. The scarred man closed the door, locked it then double locked it with the door chain. Eh? Wait, is there a need to be so cautious?

Being brought into the innermost room of the room that had two rooms and a kitchen, I was dumbfounded by the hellish scene that I saw.

There were three other men in the room surrounding a square table. They were Tetsu-senpai, an afro guy wearing a flowery shirt, and a muscular octopus-like person who had his brows and hair shaved off. And then they’re—

“Pong!”

“Too weak! Tetsu, don’t you cry after this.”

On the table that had a layer of some sort of wooly paper on it, a whole lot of mahjong tiles were placed on it.

“Narumi, you’re just in time. Lend me two thousand.”

Tetsu-senpai, who originally had his back to me, suddenly turned his head over, and stretched out his hand with an agitated expression on his face.

“Eh? Ah, okay……” Because of his agitation, I subconsciously took out my wallet.

“Didn’t I tell you that you could just borrow from me?” Octy said.

“Nemo-san, if I borrowed it from you, you might just demand for ten percent interest after ten minutes.”

“Even so, you don’t need to borrow from some kid, do you?”

“I’ve already reached this state, there’s no reason for me not to show my cards!” Tetsu-senpai snatched the two thousand yen, threw it down on the table and pushed down the rest of his tiles.

“You actually collected that much pins.”

“Which tile were you waiting for?”

“Though I’m not too sure, but shouldn’t I be able to call mahjong if I have a lot of pins?” Tetsu-senpai said.

“The 2,5,8 pins and 3,6,9 pins are six…… Wait!” I unintentionally interrupted, then roared at senpai: “What on Earth are you doing!?”

“Can’t you see? We’re playing mahjong!”

I flew over here just because I was worried about you, you idiotic gambler!

“It can’t be helped, as I don’t even have the money to call yaku. Whoa, tsumo! Dealer wins, three straight wins with three north winds (Z: Mahjong terms are making me dizzy)......”

What do you mean by it can’t be helped? Tetsu-senpai had a huge comeback after receiving my two thousand yen, and ignored me, who was still furious. The gambling that took place on the table was different from my understanding of mahjong. Not only that there’s only three players (The guy who brought me into the room only helps to pour the coffee and change the ten thousand yen, and is not taking part), directly using cash to replace tokens is also something to be in awe of. If anyone wins, cash flew all over the table. The method of calculating the points seemed to be different as well……

The two thousand yen that I provided increased drastically and halved again, making me tremble in fear.

“Tetsu, do you want to have lunch together? What about you, Gu-san?”

After about an hour, Octy stood up. The afro guy called Gu-san shook his head.

“I have to look at some pawned items.”

“That’s too bad.”

Listening to the conversation of the yakuza (probably) from afar, I felt somewhat dizzy because of the tiredness that suddenly welled up in me. Fortunately, senpai won some money. Thank God…… I was just thinking that when— “Nemo-san, here’s the two hundred thousand I owe you.” “Okay!” He immediately handed the stack of cash that he won to Nemo-san.

“That’s all of it.” Senpai’s expression was like he got rid of a huge burden.

` “My two thousand yen……”

“Oh yeah, just let me owe you that for the moment. If possible, just forget about it!”

“How can I forget about it!? Two thousand yen is a lot!”

After walking out of the building, Octy brought Tetsu-senpai and I to a sushi shop for some reason. According to him, it seemed like it was because they needed a player to join their game, so he lent Tetsu-senpai two hundred thousand without interest, even promising him not to collect an entry fee and to treat senpai to lunch, so that he would join their game. That would mean senpai already lost two hundred thousand before I even reached there. It’s too scary. Being squeezed in the middle of senpai and Octy in the sushi shop, my hand holding the cup trembled. And also, why are we sitting like this? Why am I in a pincer attack!?

“Oh, I see. So this is the guy who dealt with the kids who sold the drug. I’ve heard of it before. I really can’t tell that you’re that audacious. I’ll treat, so eat up.”

It seems that the yakuza heard about the incident before this. Octy seemed abnormally friendly. Really, don’t treat me like this. I could only timidly order kappa maki rolls and tamago sushis to eat. Then Octy asked me: “Well? Why don’t you just quit school and join our gang?” He actually asked me a thing like that. Senpai, help!

“Nemo-san, Narumi is a talented person who is shouldering the future of the NEETs, so please don’t ask him to join your gang.” And don’t just tell me to shoulder such a thing!

“So you two are old friends…… right?”

I frantically changed the topic like a coward.

“No, it’s our first time meeting. You could say that we’re friends of a friend. We just had our first conversation through the phone just now, and he said that they’re lacking a player.”

I nearly spitted out the kappa maki roll in my mouth. The first time!?

“I was surprised too.” He doesn’t seem to be surprised to me. “He’s quite famous, so I heard about him. I heard that he’s a crazy idiot. I was just joking, but I didn’t really think that he would actually come, but that isn’t really related to someone’s bravery or anything. What a pity, I wanted to let him owe us some money so that he would join our gang.”

I stared blankly at senpai’s face. Doesn’t he want to live anymore?

“Our gang would grow, it’s a share with potential. And you don’t even have a job, right?”

Ahhhh, that’s bad, he came back to the same topic again.

“I’m really good at palmistry. How about it? Would you like me to read yours?”

Octy forcibly grabbed my right hand and touched the lines on my palm with his fingers.

“See? Your heart line is longer than your head line, this type of palm is extremely suited to become yakuza.” Are there even anyone whose head line is longer than their heart line!? Is this guy an idiot!? But I dare not rebuke him, for fear of being killed.

“I’m good at astrology too. When is your birthday?”

“…… October thirty first.”

“Then you’re a scorphio. Scorpios are really suited! The people born between first of March and February twenty eighth are suited to being yakuza.”

Just say that everyone are suited!

“Nemo-san, what’s your horoscope?”

“I’m a yakuza.” (Z: Horoscopes in Japanese have a ‘za’ behind them. Here, Nemo-san is trying to make a pun)

“I know that!”

Ahhh, I’m finished…… My tongue slipped, so I’ll get killed. Octy laughed heartily while hitting my back, causing the counter of the sushi shop to sway.

“You really have potential Why don’t you just join our gang with Tetsu?”

“I’m not joining such a troublesome job.” Senpai answered. He’s so calm that it’s annoying.

I ordered only kappa maki rolls. I frantically stuffed them into my mouth, focusing on the taste of the cucumbers.

And so the two chatted beside me, and the conversation was steered to the direction of the case.

“Nemo-san, you know Kusakabe Masaya, right? He once worked in Osaka.”

“…… Are you involved in it?”

Octy lowered his voice. I was surprised, and drank a mouthful of tea to dilute the taste of the sushi.

Oh, I see. So Tetsu-senpai wasn’t just playing mahjong for fun, but collecting information.

“Did you play mahjong with me just because of this? Idiot…… It’d be better if you don’t meddle in this. Though only Tabara is involved for now, other gangs might be involved after this. This isn’t a matter that you can get off the hook so easily.”

“You should’ve told me such constructive advice much earlier.”

Octy punched Tetsu-senpai from above my head. A ‘thud’ sound came from above. His punch was blocked by senpai’s palm.

“Hmph!” Octy sat down again, and the chef looked at this side with a scared expression on his face from the other side of the counter.

“What is your relationship with Kusakabe?”

“I can’t say that. Nemo-san, please tell us everything you know about him.”

“Well aren’t you greedy. I’ve already told you all that I know.”

I observed Octy’s actions in fear. His shadow caused by his sunken eyes looked even more frightening from the side. As I was about to catch hold of Tetsu-senpai’s hands and escape, Octy started to say:

“For what reason do I have to tell you that?”

“Didn’t you undergo the sake ceremony with Kusakabe? Though you can’t help in this matter because of your opposing stands, you can just tell me anything you know, you might be able to help him.”

Octy squinted his eyes.

“Where did you learn about this?”

“That’s confidential.”

Tetsu-senpai lightly brushed off the topic, tossing his sushi into his mouth. Then, he suddenly pushed me away and pleaded to Octy with his head lowered:

“Please.”

At that moment, all was silent in the shop, even the chef was waiting with bated breath while holding his knife. As for me, I was so scared that I couldn’t even look at Octy’s face.

Finally, Octy spoke:

“Do you have any proof you aren’t Kusakabe’s enemy?”

“Only my life.”

I felt a chill on my back— both Tetsu-senpai, who said those words, and Octy, who laughed after he heard that, made me feel ghastly.

“We talked on the phone. Though I wasn’t the one who picked up the phone.”

I nearly asked: “When was that?” but forced myself to stay silent.

As Octy looked at me with an expression that I wasn’t sure if it was in anger or in laughter, making me feel extremely intimidated.

“He called yesterday, so he’s probably still in this area.”

“By phone? Why?” Tetsu-senpai asked.

“He asked me to help smuggle him out of the country, but I couldn’t comply with his request as it was too sudden.”

Smuggle him out of the country?

“Is he thinking of hiding in another country?”

“It seems like he didn’t just ask us, but other units as well. He’s asking about Korea, Hong Kong or Singapore, so he’s probably trying to run away.”

Hiding in another country— then what about Meo? I gulped down the bad thoughts and the taste of the kappa maki rolls with a mouthful of tea.

“With Kusakabe’s contacts, it shouldn’t be a problem for him to hide somewhere in Kansai. I really don’t know what he’s thinking, asking about this and that even though he’s on the run. He’ll die if a brainless guy tells Tabara-gumi about this.”

“It’s indeed strange. He could actually run far, far away by now.”

“As for you, you probably know where the girl and the two hundred million is, right?”

Tetsu-senpai’s eyebrows didn’t even twitch because of this question. But when he saw my face, Octy suddenly laughed.

“Tetsu, you really have some guts, but this guy has the answer all over his face.”

I was so abashed that I wanted to run away immediately from the scene, and I sneaked a peek at Tetsu-senpai’s expression. Is this guy really okay? He wouldn’t just sell us out, right? Octy smacked my back and suddenly recovered his solemn expression.

“It’s not the company’s money, obviously.”

“Then what is the relationship between the company and Tabara-gumi?” Tetsu-senpai asked.

“You’re meddling in this even though you don’t know?” Octy wiped his bald forehead with a tissue. “The current head of the company is Mikawa, and he borrowed money from Tabara when he first started the company with Kusakabe. Of course, the debts haven’t been cleared yet, so they couldn’t refuse any request from Tabara. Kusakabe was in the yakuza, so he knew from the start that it would turn out like that, which is why he dislikes that. But no money means no work done.”

“Which means, Kusakabe could only give in.”

“Probably.”

“Then where did the money come from?”

“How would I know about that? I can only tell you about this.”

After walking out of the sushi shop, Octy immediately lowered his voice and said:

“You should get this clear, you should first join them if you want to get information from a gang. Probably many people mentioned this to you before, right? You really should consider it.”

“I’ll be a NEET forever!”

Octy roared in laughter, his voice so loud that it almost broke my back. He then pushed Tetsu-senpai in the chest and left after saying ‘I’ll leave Kusakabe to you’.

Seeing his silhouette disappear from the streets, I used all my energy to heave a sigh. Tetsu-senpai laughed while stroking my back.

“Narumi, you don’t need to be that nervous.”

“…… Why did you let me sit in the middle?”

“Well, I heard that he’s a gay. So that’s just a precaution……”

Oh please, how is that a precaution!?

“Never mind, never mind. They have absolutely no connections with Tabara. Having connections with yakuza can be helpful sometimes.”

Oh, I see. So Tetsu-senpai’s network of contacts is formed like this. I felt extremely weak, and sat on the separator between the sushi shop and the parking lot. I’d probably be unable to move for awhile.

“We had quite the haul today. Narumi, thanks. I was worried of what would happen if I didn’t get a tsumo. I really don’t want to owe them money the first time I meet them.”

“You actually found out that he’s Kusakabe’s friend, how did you do that……”

“Mnn? Oh, it wasn’t that hard.” Senpai answered casually: “I called all the Kansai yakuza that I know, and most of them went ‘What? What nonsense are you speaking?’ , until I hit the jackpot with Nemo-san. I gave a lot of calls, it’s so tiring.”

Is he kidding? This guy really don’t want to live anymore.

“Not giving up is the key to being a good detective.”

I never would have thought that a NEET would tell me to not give up, but I can’t deny that he’s right this time.

“At least we know that Kusakabe is still in the area. It’s lucky that Nemo-san is a person that you can talk with, really.”

“Yeah…… He seemed that he was quite decent.”

He’s unlike the yakuza who I had in mind, the ones who speak rudely and ask unreasonable demands, it’s just that he looks somewhat scary. But senpai’s expression suddenly became solemn.

“Narumi, listen, you have to remember this.”

He caught hold of my hand and pulled me up.

“There is no good yakuza on this world, a good yakuza is a dead yakuza.”

Is that so…….

“…… Yondaime too?” I suddenly thought of him, and asked randomly.

“I killed that guy about fifty times already, so he should be a pretty decent yakuza.”

Tetsu-senpai answered while smiling. Wasn’t he killed for about fifty times as well?

“We could only wait for news from Yondaime now. If he’s still in the city, then Hirasaka-gumi can find him.”

*

I was already deprived of sleep that day, and was also dead tired due to running around, so I fell asleep as soon as I got home.

When I was woken up by a blaring noise, it was already pitch dark. Not knowing that I fell asleep while lying on my stomach, I struggled quite some time even to stand up.

I even forgot that I should just turn on the lights, but kept searching in the dark for the source of the loud noise. It was the music of ‘Colorado Bulldog’, which meant that Alice was calling.

After locating my phone after some time, I saw that it was five minutes after midnight. Why is she calling me at this time?

‘Someone reported that they saw Kusakabe Masaya. The photos Yondaime distributed finally worked, so we’re starting to spy on him. Come here immediately.’

“…… Now……? I’m really tired.”

My mind was still foggy, unsure of the situation. Someone saw Kusakabe Masaya? Didn’t we just send the photos half a day before? Aren’t they quick.

‘I’m telling you to come here immediately. Do you mean to say that sleeping for another hour means immediately in your dictionary?’

“No, alright, I’m coming. But can’t you just wait for another hour?”

‘It can’t be helped if you’re late. But I would confirm that you got lost on the way here, then distribute the photo of you sleeping happily in my dolls with your mouth wide open to, for people to search for you.’

“When did you take that photo!” Any hint of sleepiness immediately disappeared, then I jumped down from the bed.

‘You know that I get nervous easily, so I will only wait thirty minutes because I’m too worried of your safety.’

Then, she hung up. I threw my phone onto my bed, then put on a jacket.




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