Kamisama no Memochou:Volume 2 Chapter 3
Standing in front of the door to the rooftop, I reconfirmed the time on the liquid plasma screen of my phone in the darkness. It was two thirty at night. As I was badgered by Alice to wake up just now, so today, I have to work from dawn as well. When the spring break ends, would I be able to return to the normal days when I wake up every morning to go to school?
This rooftop was quite cramped and was surrounded with a wire fence. Only a lone rack for drying clothes could be seen on the six meter area. Further at my right, a small silhouette appeared in the dim light.
“Vice Admiral Fujishima, you’re so slow.”
Major didn’t even raise his head when I walked near. While munching on the German sausage in his hands, he kept his eyes glued to the telescope that was aimed downwards, and used his free left hand to adjust the wheel. The five small screens arranged in an arc around his feet became a faint source of light.
“I went to Alice’s place first.”
“Why didn’t you come here directly?”
“Because Alice made a 3D model of Kusakabe Masaya’s face with a simulation software, and even forced me to remember what he looks like from the side and the top.”
As for why Alice has such a high tech-program, I heard that it’s because it was stolen from a research lab from some company.
“Oh, I see. That is indeed a mission that is suited for Vice Admiral Fujishima. Although I’m still worried because you’re in charge of this.”
Major finally stood up after saying that, leaving me sitting on the floor while surrounded by monitors. In front of the telescope, there was a twenty four hours supermarket at a corner of the junction, the red and blue lights of the neon light illuminating the city at night. Though it was already past midnight, the flow of customers going in and out did not stop.
“Someone saw Kusakabe Masaya there?”
It was somewhat distant from the station, but it is still in the same district.
“That’s right. There were two witnesses, so it’s worth a look. Running away from home and hiding in this area, these twenty four hours shops are indispensable.”
“But why did we get the information so quickly? Didn’t we give the photo to Yondaime just yesterday?”
“They distributed the photo to the NEETs in the city, and they’re usually quite free.”
How many hundreds of NEETs are there in the city? While gazing at the late night crowd though the telescope, I thought to myself. These people are idle all day, and they form a strong network of contacts after being handled by Yondaime.
“Even so, do we have to start from late night?”
“You just think from Kusakabe’s point of view. If he’s really hiding in this area, if he wants to buy something, he would probably do so at dawn, when there are less people.”
I was about to say: If he chose to do so at late night when nobody’s out, it’s easy for the shopkeeper to remember his face, so he would avoid it; but I didn’t want to be misunderstood that I said that just because I wanted to continue sleeping, so I shut my mouth.
“Then let’s start the discussion. This is a system that can do the spying work of six people with just one person, and as humans only have two eyes, you’ll have to depend on your determination to increase it.” I’d be a psychic if I can do that……
Major proudly explained the locations that have a spying device on it and the method to control the focal length of the camera lens, saying something like: “From now on, Vice Admiral Fujishima might take part in these spying jobs more often, so you can just use this chance to get used to its method of operation!” It is said that he made these high tech devices personally, and I could only feel pity for him to waste his talent.
“What is this string for?”
There were wool threads tied to each monitor and the stand of the telescope, while the end of the strings were tied together and vanished in Major’s backpack.
“Oh, that is used for packing up all the tools in an instant to run away if someone reports that there are suspicious people on the rooftop and the police appears. You can just pull on this, and all of the things would pulled into the backpack.”
“Wa- wait a minute, you’re using this rooftop without permission?”
“Duh, who can you ask for permission anyways?”
That’s not wrong, but…….
“But there’s only one entrance, how can I escape then?”
“If you’re in a pinch, just jump down from here. Don’t worry, you won’t die if you’re patriotic.”
I’ll definitely die if I jump down!
“It’s okay if Vice Admiral Fujishima dies in battle, but please take care of the devices. Break a leg. I’ll go set up the spying devices now. I’ll change shifts with you after four hours.”
After saying a whole lot of irresponsible words, Major disappeared into the building. I really feel that he’s rather active this time.
So that it would be easier to contact people in an emergency, I took out my phone and placed it beside the telescope stand, then erected the collar of my jacket and started to stare at the screen. Although it was already April, it was still exceptionally cold on the rooftop at night because of the wind. The light of the monitor shone on my face, and I suddenly thought of the incident on the dawn of that day when I squatted down. It happened on a rooftop as well.
The words that Alice dug out from the grave— the words that Ayaka left.
They are still burned in my mind.
I tried to focus my attention on the faces of the pedestrians, but I couldn’t do it.
I recalled Ayaka’s face, the face that was devoid of happiness, sorrow or even anger, lying weakly on the bed in the hospital.
I wonder where Ayaka is right now.
In the depths of the eyes that were open wide, was Ayaka’s soul really in there?
It’s useless even if I think more about it. No matter where she is, it’s impossible for her to return, and I don’t even have the courage to visit her now.
The monitoring job is really tougher than what I first thought. One of the members of Hirasaka-gumi, Major and I had to take shifts of four hours each; but the four hours of sitting did not get us any new information, and time felt as though it was as long as the winter break. Drinking the canned coffee alone after changing shifts, its tasted like I was drinking newspapers.
Even so, I really think that this job really suits me. That’s because I don’t have to think of what I can do and so on.
The third time changing shifts— Tuesday, a whole day after we started working, I felt like an empty shell. Not only my body, even my eyes don’t have the energy to move anymore, so I could only repeatedly eat and drink. The plastic bag of a convenience store was stuffed full of the packaging of onigiris and sandwiches.
On my retina that had almost turned into a machine, silhouettes going here and there were reflected from the screens and the telescopes. Monitoring the people in a state of blankness might be more effective instead—
As it seems like something is happening.
My consciousness was gradually pulled back to the rooftop before dawn, like it was struggling to slowly drift to the surface of a bottomless swimming pool.
I wasn’t sure how I stopped spacing out at first. There wasn’t even a shadow of a person on the screens, so I hurriedly looked through the telescope to observe in more detail. A few people could be seen moving in the range of the shop, two workers were squashing a large amount of cardboard boxes behind the vegetable area, while another worker was behind the counter. And also—
No, it’s impossible. I focused my whole attention to look at the face of the man who was paying his bill at the counter, from the side. The man in the photo I saw was not wearing glasses, unlike this man, and he was wearing a baseball cap too, making him look even younger. What is he buying? I increased the magnification of the telescope to the max— So it’s a kitchen knife, and…… hair gel? No, is it deodorant? Envelopes, a small item placed in a plastic box, and a lot more odds and ends.
Seeing the man walk out of the door after paying his bill, I felt even more certain of it. Other people would not notice it even if they put in more effort to see, but I was very sure of it.
That man is Kusakabe Masaya.
The man walked to a trash can near the shop, took out an item from his bag, tore apart the packaging and threw it; I realized at that moment that it was a disposable battery used for phones. Now I get it, I recall that the yakuza said that he was asking around about something on the phone.
I never would’ve thought that we could really find this person by just monitoring a shop. Kusakabe’s silhouette was shown on the leftmost part of the monitor. Although I immediately focused on him, he vanished from the screen very quickly. I stood up— I can’t stay here anymore, for fear of losing his trail.
Sprinting out of the door and running down the stairs of the building, I couldn’t see Kusakabe Masaya’s silhouette by the time I reached the junction. I ignored the red light of the traffic light, rushing in a slanted path to the slope. As the lights of the store could not shine on here, the streets were suddenly plunged into darkness. I saw a silhouette with the corner of my eye, and I immediately chased the person to the alley after running through the road. The sounds of exhaust engines became fainter and fainter. I quickened my steps, going forward on the cold asphalt road. Did he really walk towards this direction? Actually, the silhouette of the man was long gone, so I could only chase him by intuition.
Turning left after going past a few corners, a bone-colored wall appeared in the darkness. It was the sound insulating wall of a construction site; the folding door opened merely thirty centimeters or so.
I tried to have a closer look, and saw that the signboard that should have the names of the construction unit and project had rusted long ago, while the words on it were indiscernible.
I stealthily poked my head to the other side of the wall. I couldn’t have a good look as it was too dark, only the uneven ground could be seen. There wasn't any large machinery in the construction site, and only a temporarily built hut made of steel plates was at the right corner of the site. It looks like there was some movement at the other side of the window.
Is it there? Though it looks like it’s suitable to be used as a hideout…… But if that’s just my imagination, what should I do? Besides, is that man really Kusakabe Masaya? I was getting more and more uncertain.
Ah, this is bad! I forgot Major’s telescope, his monitors and the power generator on the rooftop. I have to go back.
Right at that moment— a faint noise drifted over.
Originally planning to leave, I stopped. The sound came from the construction site, and it seemed like it came from the hut.
I silently stared at the windows of the hut that was shrouded in darkness. A silhouette was moving in it.
There was someone inside.
I gulped, and stepped into the construction site. The feeling of the sticky mud felt like a swamp that accumulated soft darkness. I lowered my body and went closer to the hut.
This time, a clear voice could be heard.
“…… please. No, not in the country…… That’s right. You probably have an account in Singapore, right…… I won’t ask for all of the two hundred million, so please give me a hand.”
The man said with a low voice.
Two hundred million.
It was Kusakabe Masaya. I found him. I actually found him!
Indeed, he hasn’t left here yet, but why? I listened closely to the contents of the conversation with bated breath. He’s probably on the phone, huh?
“…… No, it’s the flight this weekend. Can’t you help out with that….. Yeah. No, it’s me who’s asking too much from you. Sorry for bothering you at this time.”
The voice stopped, and the person in the house tutted. Listening to the faint sounds in the silence, it seemed like an impatient Kusakabe Masaya pressing the buttons of his phone appeared before my eyes. It’s luckier for you to have someone on the phone at this time. Even so, what in the world is he trying to do? Is he really planning to escape to another country? And he even mentioned Singapore too……
Unknowingly, my knees that were in a squatting position started to tremble slightly. What should I do? I never thought that I could even find him, much less how to handle it when I find him.
And I can’t just barge in. He doesn’t even know me, and just now— he bought a kitchen knife. Is that used for self-protection?
In the end, I could only think of calling Major or the others. I could just monitor him until reinforcements come, and I’ll just let that person handle it. But I only realized in shock at that moment of my terrible mistake— I forgot my phone on the rooftop too.
Until a long, long time after that, I could still remember the mistake that I made. Does this count as a type of failure? If I didn’t forget my phone, would the results be better? I don’t know.
Anyways, I have to go back. I slowly walked through the muddy ground in a squatting position, then left the construction site.
Walking along the road that I came from, my leg tensed when I was passing through the road.
On the sidewalk opposite to the slope, three silhouettes were walking towards this direction. The streetlights dimly illuminated the purple flowery shirt that was overly conspicuous, and I immediately retreated behind the walls of the house behind me.
It was that guy— one of the two men who chased me at Hello Palace. Though I’m not sure about the other two, the person leading them is definitely that guy. I felt that my heart almost jumped to the bottom of my chin, while both of my legs were paralyzed.
“…… near here, close to the house of Kishiwada’s old man.” “Did he please his old man?” “Probably not?” “Is construction work still done on the site?” “No, it stopped for quite some time now……”
In the silence, the contents of their conversation could be clearly heard. They’re here for Kusakabe Masaya, it can’t be wrong. I must inform him— tell him to run away quickly. But my legs couldn’t move, as though they were sealed on the spot with cement.
On the other side of the road, the three passed by me. It can’t be helped now. It’s too late to hurry back now, even I would be noticed by them. If they notice me…… If even I was noticed—
I unknowingly squatted down, my hands tightly holding my thighs trembling violently. The footsteps of the three gradually disappeared.
I stood up and ran for my life. I almost fell down due to a loss of balance when sprinting madly down the slope, but I did not stop because of this. If the three went near him at the same time, Kusakabe Masaya would probably notice it, so it’s okay, he’d be able to escape, so it’s fine even if I don’t go back and tell him. While running away, I thought of reasons to explain why I ran away. Each time my feet stomped on the asphalt road, the pain that spread to my gut made me feel like throwing up.
When I finally saw the lights of the twenty four hours supermarket, I stopped and hugged a tree beside the sidewalk, covering my mouth and swallowing the feeling of wanting to puke back into my stomach. Though I knew that no one was looking at me, I didn’t feel like looking back.
As the feeling of wanting to puke gradually vanished, disgust at myself spread through my whole body.
Why did I run?
Why didn’t I turn back and inform him even though I saw those people?
It was I who abandoned Kusakabe Masaya but it can’t be helped, right? The opposing party is yakuza. What if the guy in the purple shirt remembers me? If I hurried back while Kusakabe Masaya had already escaped, and I was caught instead, wouldn’t that be ironic? So it is better like this, that is—
I swallowed my bitter saliva, unsteadily walking past the junction while staring at my feet. The cars that drove on the road horned loudly, driving past my back while brushing against the back of my hair.
When I returned to the rooftop, the monitors, telescope, backpack and my phone were still arranged neatly, awaiting my return. The screen showed the interior of the deserted shop, feeling as though it was blaming me.
I held back my tears that were about to fall and picked up my phone, dialing Alice’s number after hesitating for a long time.
“I didn’t think that we would have trouble so soon.”
Alice said coolly. The words that came into my ears along with the sounds of the cold wind from the air conditioner were extremely cold.
When I went back to the NEET Detective Agency, the sun was already up. Alice used her computer while sitting on the bed, completely ignoring me, who’s squatting beside her.
“I sent a lot of things to Kusakabe Masaya’s phone, accelerating the rate of battery drain. This method is effective, but it’s both good and bad.”
So she can use this kind of trick? This girl…… you really shouldn’t make an enemy of her.
It’s just that all of Alice’s elaborate planning, Major’s high tech devices and Yondaime’s contacts, all of them were wasted by me. I hugged my knees and buried my face between my arms, the cold wind on the back of my neck hurting me. And we found him after so much effort……
“What is it? You’ve been as quiet as an overcooked hermit crab. You aren’t thinking that it’s because of you that Kusakabe Masaya was caught by the people from Tabara-gumi, are you? And you aren’t even certain if he was caught or not.”
“But, if I hurried back to find him……”
Alice finally turned her head over, frowning. Is she angry?
“Think about it calmly. Didn’t those people accurately walk to the construction site where he was hiding at? So it’s probably the people who Kusakabe Masaya contacted who sold his hiding spot out to Tabara-gumi. Even if you hurry back and tell him……”
“I know that.”
“You have a higher chance of being noticed by those people. So your decision was correct, it’s just that the opposing party acted quicker than us. My response wasn’t quick enough, so don’t just shoulder my responsibility for the world.”
My decision, is correct?
So what? Being correct or not isn’t important.
It’s just that I ran away, so the end result doesn’t matter.
“Who says that it doesn’t matter?” Alice’s voice was quite stern: “Why are you so dumb? If even you were caught by Tabara-gumi, how do you think the matter would turn out to be? Until now, if you are still ignoring this to show your meaningless courage, then I’m firing you right this moment. Get out!”
My jaw dropped in surprise, and I stared at Alice, who was so angry that her face was all red.
“…… What are you doing? Why aren’t you answering?”
“Err…… I never thought that Alice was so worried about me.”
“Who says that I’m worried about you?” A pillow flew over. “Do you really think that I would be worried for your safety!”
“Well, didn’t you say that you were worried for my safety yesterday?”
“I was being sarcastic, idiot! You don’t even know that!”
For some reason, Alice started to throw empty cans and remotes at me with her face red. So she wouldn’t throw her dolls even when she’s that agitated…… Wait, why is she this angry anyways?
“A…… Anyways, I’m sorry, my apologies.”
I retreated to somewhere near the fridge while covering my head.
“I had enough! You’re a guy who’s so stupid that it’s unforgivable!”
As there wasn’t anything else near her that she could throw, Alice could only whack the mat repeatedly while her black hair swayed around.
“I’m really sorry……”
Though I wasn’t sure if I was in the wrong, I still apologized to Alice in a small voice. Alice turned her head to look angrily at the screen.
I collected the things that Alice threw over and picked out the trash, but Alice spoke again as I was about to place the remaining items onto her bed:
“If you were caught, a useless person like you would probably blab about Meo’s hiding spot and the fact that we’re helping her to investigate the matter with little effort from them. You should think of how terrible that would be.”
Ah…… She’s right. But that made me sound really useless.
Did Kusakabe Masaya really got caught? Major went to his hiding spot to have a look, but it was deserted, as expected. I should’ve at least confirmed if he got away successfully, then we could plan our next actions quickly.
“I requested Hirasaka-gumi to monitor Tabara-gumi’s office, and we have Major’s spying devices. If Kusakabe Masaya has really been caught, we would know immediately.”
Even though she had her back to me, she knew perfectly what I was thinking of.
Then, I finally realized the reason for my depression, and it wasn’t because of self-reproach for not saving Kusakabe Masaya.
It was because I never even thought about things.
What do I do if I find him? To what extent is my resolve to take part in things?
When I met the yakuza, if I ran away because I determined that returning to Kusakabe’s side would be dangerous, I might not feel so useless right now. In reality, it was just because my feet were paralyzed in fear.
Yondaime’s words were spot on. When people without strong resolve are present, it would just increase the others’ burden.
This made me feel extremely useless. Maybe I really don’t have the right to stay by Alice’s side as an assistant.
I suddenly noticed Alice gazing silently at me.
“Hmph!” Instead of saying that she’s angry, it’s more accurate to say that it’s a shy reaction. “You really are unbelievably stupid, actually thinking of this kind of thing.”
…… Eh? Did I just talk to myself again? I was so embarrassed that I felt like dying.
“Okay, I get it, you’re a useless person. Brainless! Coward! Fish brain! Working for a detective although you have no resolve, you have no right to be my assistant— are you satisfied?”
I was scolded for no reason. To Alice, the scolding that she gave me wasn’t anything special.
“Though I don’t know what Yondaime said to you, you can just feed the thing called realization to chickens. Have you forgotten what we should do?”
I was completely clueless to what Alice said at first.
“…… To catch Kusakabe Masaya.”
“And to protect Meo. You actually forgot even though you’re the one who suggested that, I’m speechless. Listen, nobody cares if you have strong resolve or not. It’s better for you to confirm this for me if you have time to think about these meaningless things.”
My worries were denied by her in just a moment, causing me to be speechless. A photocopied paper flew to me, while I blankly stared at Alice for quite some time, even forgetting to pick up the paper.
“What are you spacing out for? If you want to make a performance of sleeping with your eyes open, then perform outside!”
“Ah…… Mnn, sorry.”
I picked up the paper, and saw that it was densely packed with a whole of what seemed like names of products, time and price.
“…… What is this?”
“It’s the POS system list for the supermarket that you were monitoring. Large chain shops have the information of the items sold in the branches all over the country, so it’s pretty easy to check.”
Saying that as if it’s so simple, normal people actually can’t do that, can they? Reading the list in detail, that’s right, all of the items recorded on it was the same as the ones on the receipt of the supermarket.
“What are the ones circled with red pen?”
Right after I said that, I realized the answer. The items Kusakabe Masaya bought were: a kitchen knife, an air freshening spray, envelopes, disposable chopsticks, disposable battery, thread and needle, lighter, scissors, bandage, and cellophane tape.
“As there was only one customer at that time, it’s probably accurate; Those were the items bought by Kusakabe Masaya, right? Didn’t you see him paying his bill?”
Alice finally turned her head over to look at me. I nodded in response. I did see things like a kitchen knife and something like a spray.
“But why did you check out what he bought?”
I saw a rare scene at that moment— Alice turned her head to a side and stayed silent.
She didn’t answer for quite some time, so I couldn’t help but tilt my head to look at the side of her face, then shifted my attention to the list of sold goods on my hands. What’s with this? Did Kusakabe Masaya surprise Alice with the things that he bought?
Alice finally spoke with a faint voice:
“In this case, I don’t want to be the detective.”
I even thought that I heard wrongly. But a familiar, fragile light could be seen from her eyes when Alice looked at the bookshelf that was almost flat because of the weight of the machines on it.
“I’ve told you before, the detective that I meant is actually a representative for the deceased. As for Meo, she doesn’t need that at all. Though there aren’t any deaths yet, my fingers have already started to search for the words that would be lost. I detest myself like this, and I don’t want to do that either. Actually, just thinking of the people who are alive would be enough— but I have no choice, my soul is constantly drawn by death. Protecting a person or saving a person, a NEET detective could never do that.”
There’s no such thing— was what I wanted to say. But seeing Alice’s sorrowful expression, I couldn’t speak my mind.
As for myself— what do I think about this?
Ayaka’s words that were revealed by Alice that time.
Wouldn’t it be better if I don’t know about anything? I have thought about that a few times before. But it’s because of Alice that I can do these things now. What would happen if I was kept in the dark about the truth? In short, is knowing or not knowing better? For me, who knows the truth, this fact could never be understood.
Even so, the person who pulled me out from a bottomless swamp was definitely Alice. I didn’t know what to say. It is always at these critical times that I couldn’t say a thing.
I continued to stay silent, then Alice spoke while looking at her side:
“Even though I am not sure if he was caught by Tabara-gumi, I have already started to imagine the sound of myself tapping on the skull of the dead. What was the sum of money used for? Why did Kusakabe Masaya ask Meo to run away with the money? Why did he hide himself? I am actually more afraid of the truth slowly rotting while being buried in the ground.”
Alice used the mat to wrap her body, then turned around to face me. I could see that she wanted to force out a self-ridiculing smile, but failed.
“Are you thinking: Why don’t we just ask Kusakabe Masaya after we successfully rescue him? I really think that it’d be better if I could think like that, but the fate of a NEET detective is to connect with the world through death. So I could only frantically collect information, trying to reconstruct his words, guessing what he is thinking about.”
I should really interrupt, or Alice would continue to split hairs. So I tried to think of something to say—
“…… Then did you find out?”
But the question that slipped out was an idiotic question like that.
“I have my assumptions, but they have not been proven yet.”
“Maybe he wants to escape to another country? I remember that he mentioned something about a flight this weekend or something like that.”
“I don’t think so.”
I could not think of any other possibilities.
“Think about it, he stayed in the area even though he’s wanted by the Tabara-gumi, so he probably has a significant reason. So I tried to filter the information to find out the relationship between the surroundings of the construction site and Tabara-gumi, Hello Corporation, and even Kusakabe Masaya himself.”
“The problem is, do you know how many houses and buildings are located there?”
“After a thorough search of the related addresses and categorizing them, then using a searching program to record the data of the connections and distance, the end result appeared here.”
A second piece of photocopied paper flew over from Alice’s hands. It’s a simple, black and white map. The large, double circle in the middle is probably the construction site that Kusakabe hid at, and heading west from there— about two hundred meters from there according to the scale of the map, there was a place marked with a big star.
Eh? Isn’t this near……?
“Isn’t this the high class residential area?”
“That’s right. A yakuza boss lives in this place marked with a star, and is handling a yakuza organization called ‘Kishiwada-kai’. It is a luxurious mansion surrounded by surveillance cameras.”
Kishiwada? Haven’t I heard of this name before?
“This gang is a gang superior to Tabara-gumi. Which means, the boss of Tabara-gumi is an underling of Kishiwada-kai.”
“Ah……” The three men who looked for Kusakabe Masaya seemed to have mentioned something about Kishiwada’s old man, so they were talking about this.
“Which means Kusakabe Masaya’s hideout is near the residence of a boss of a gang superior to Tabara-gumi. This matter cannot be handled so easily.”
“Wait a sec, I’m a bit confused. Are you saying that the person who ordered the yakuza to look for Meo’s father is among the top echelon of a gang superior to Tabara-gumi?”
“I am not sure about that. Tetsu is investigating the relationship between Kishiwada-kai and this case, and it is still unknown as to how deeply are they involved in the case; but they probably do have SOME connections.”
Deliberately hiding near the house of a yakuza boss who’s searching for himself? Why did Kusakabe Masaya do that? It’s inexplicable.
“That’s why I investigated the items that he bought.”
Hearing Alice’s words, I again shifted my attention to the paper in my hands.
The items that were bought at late night. Kitchen knife, air freshening spray, envelopes, disposable chopsticks, disposable phone battery, thread and needle, lighter, scissors, bandages and tape. What are these? The things apart from the battery baffles me. Buying a kitchen knife and a sewing toolkit, what in the world does he want that for?
“Buying a kitchen knife……”
Concealing himself near the house of his enemy, and he prepared a kitchen knife and scissors. Might that be……?
“He’s probably not that stupid, that’s your prejudice towards yakuza before this.”
Alice saw through my thoughts.
“Trying to assassinate the yakuza boss with just a kitchen knife, it’s meaningless as he would probably be caught before he even enters the house.”
“I can’t say that you’re wrong…… Then what’s with these things? What did he plan to do with them?”
“There’s actually another hypothesis about this, but I’ll keep it to myself for now since it’s too stupid. Though this possibility exists, it’s so stupid that going on a rampage with a kitchen knife would be better. Anyways…..”
Alice showed me a wry smile and shook her head:
“Anyhow, it’s meaningless now. Kusakabe Masaya’s objective couldn’t be achieved. This is only for a detective who’s stepping on his footsteps that collected dirty rainwater to go forward for his own self-satisfaction.”
Walking out of the detective agency with a heavy heart, the sun was already high up in the sky.
I was still confused about a part of Alice’s words in my heart. It doesn’t matter if I’m resolved or not? What does that mean? It might actually make me feel better if she just reprimanded me for the mistakes that I made.
As I was about to walk down the stairs, I bumped into Meo who was holding a paper bag. I was startled, and stopped while shifting my gaze. After something like this happened— we lost news of her father that we located painstakingly. This made me unable to face Meo.
“Ah, Mr. Assistant. You came back from Miss Detective’s house this morning too?”
Please don’t say that! You’ll cause a misunderstanding.
I was frantically thinking of other topics that didn’t involve Kusakabe Masaya when I suddenly saw the clothes and towels in the paper bag Meo was holding.
“Having a bath again?”
“Yeah, because Min-san asked me to just train Miss Detective to take baths herself. It’s like she’s her mother.”
Yeah, Min-san is practically Alice’s mother right now.
“If I marry, I want to give birth to children as cute as Miss Detective.”
Would that be fine? Though I might not be able to marry and have kids, even if I got married somehow, I wouldn’t want children like Alice. They’d hate eating and be fussy, so it would be hard to raise them.
“That girl is in a terrible mood right now, so she’ll go on a rampage if you ask her to take a bath. It’s better if you wait for about ten minutes! She’s really a troublesome kid……”
I learnt something recently, Alice is more dangerous if she feels downcast than when she feels excited. But it seems that the condition would improve after using the computer for awhile.
“Don’t you like kids, Mr. Assistant?”
“It’s not like I don’t like them……” and I’m a kid as well.
“My mother passed away when I was six……” Meo started on the topic while sitting on the stairs. “The sisters who live in the same building took care of me, because dad was usually out because he’s busy. I like a lively atmosphere, so I’m going to have loads of kids after I marry.”
“…… marry your father?”
Ah, that’s bad! I tried hard to steer clear of this topic, but I, myself, broached it.
“Yeah, with dad.”
And she even answered that immediately. Do you even know how to get kids? Do you think that you can just pick kids from a cabbage farm?
“I know that, the sister taught me how to. Do you know? Calculating the ovulation date isn’t a method of birth control, but to ensure fertilization; Hiro-san taught me that.”
I hastily covered Meo’s mouth. What did that gigolo teach Meo!? Small girls shouldn’t say those kinds of things outside in broad daylight!
“Though dad doesn’t say much, he probably likes liveliness as well. So I’m going to be a mother, then give birth to lots of kids.”
“…… is that so. Then do your best to raise your children.”
I started to think blankly, this is another person’s life anyways. Being able to have this kind of life might not be half bad, and it seems to be more normal anyways.
But her target is Kusakabe Masaya…… Is that really okay? He’s an ex-yakuza who let his daughter face danger while he ran far, far away.
“If I let them drink the soft drink with the special taste, would they look like Miss Detective?”
“That’s impossible!” I should say that it’s an act of child abuse.
“Are you an only son, Mr. Assistant?”
“Do I look like one?”
“Yeah, you look like you don’t have any family members.”
Actually, she was half right. I sat down beside Meo and said:
“I live with my sister.”
“Then what about your father and mother?”
I gave the same answer for this particular question that many people would ask:
“My dad is almost never at home, while my mother passed away.”
Observing the response of the other people when I answer is actually one of my small hobbies. When sneaking a peek at Meo’s face, I saw that she looked as though she was about to cry. What a moody girl.
“…… Was it because of an illness?”
“Mnn? Oh, no…… I don’t know.”
“How could you not know?”
“It means that my mother’s passing away is somewhat muddled in my mind. Though the funeral had been held, I don’t really remember the details on that day. So actually I don’t really understand the reason for her death.”
“…… I don’t really understand what Mr. Assistant is saying.”
Really. I didn’t feel like explaining, so I brushed it away with a smile.
“Won’t you feel lonely? Not having your father or mother by your side……” Nobody ever asked me that directly, so I was rather surprised at her question and couldn’t answer. Why does Meo care so much about these tiny details?
“…… I don’t know, I never thought about it. Basically, having parents wouldn’t mean that I wouldn’t be lonely, right?”
I actually said something like that. As expected, Meo showed me an expression that told me that she wasn’t sure if she should smile wryly, and lowered her head. It’s just because of that, that the people around me would stay away from me.
Meo buried her face into the large towel, then said after “Mnnn”-ing:
“Did I tell you that my dad was a yakuza before?”
“When dad was drunk, I often asked him why he quitted being a yakuza. Then he told me something. He said that he grew up at a youth centre, but the youth centre closed down when he was in high school. After that, he became a jobless person, and met people from a gang when he was hanging out in the streets, so he asked them to let him join.”
She wanted to say why her father isn’t a yakuza anymore, but Meo started to explain from Kusakabe Masaya’s background.
“Do you know? It is said that yakuza is like family. The boss is like their parents, and the people who join first would be big brothers.”
“…… Yeah, I know that.”
The people in Hirasaka-gumi truly consider Yondaime and even Tetsu-senpai and Hiro as their family, that really makes me somewhat envious.
“Dad said that it was because of this that he joined, because he thought that he would have a lot of family members after he entered the gang. But when his rank increased, he realized that all of them were lies. He said that they were only concerned about money.”
The sorrowful moral of the story of the modern chivalrous person is that money is thicker than blood.
“He had a row with them after that, so he left the gang to have a break. He went to many countries nearby, and he met mom at Thailand in the end.”
Deliberately going across overseas to search for family? Is that even possible……
“Then he married mom and came back to Japan, then the big sisters that dad came to know in his travels came to Japan one after another with his help. Working in Japan is very toilsome, right? To let these people work more freely, he cooperated with Mikawa-san that he came to know in Japan, to open a company.”
Was he that popular? He’s an ex-yakuza who’s near forty now.
I could not imagine Kusakabe Masaya’s life as well. Predicting his thought would not only be unbeneficial, it made me more and more confused instead.
“So he brought me, who’s about five at that time, to Japan. I think Dad wants more family members, including a wife and kids; he’d feel happy if only he can stay with his family.”
Is that really so?
If he really values his family, then why did he run away while not letting Meo contact him? In the end, he should never have let his daughter get involved in such a dangerous matter. Is the two hundred million that important? Isn’t that the pressure of money that he hated the most?
And there’s another thing that I don’t understand.
Should I verify it?
I decided to ask.
“…… Meo, do you have a visa?”
“Visa?” Meo tilted her head. “For Japan? Of course.”
“I don’t mean that, I meant a passport for going overseas. For instance to Singapore.”
“Why? I don’t have any plans to go overseas, I've never been there.”
Kusakabe Masaya mentioned a flight on this weekend. Which means— he wants to abandon Meo and run away? A bad premonition surged into my head. Letting his daughter hide with a large sum of money, but he doesn’t seem to be interested in where she is hiding. Is he trying to make her the bait? To reduce the people chasing after him, so he left his daughter with a large sum of money then ran away. A hypothesis that is far from reassuring, but it’s terrible of him if things are really like that.
“What of a passport?”
“Did something happen with dad? You’re acting strange since just now.”
It looks like it’s really easy for me show my emotions on my face.
If so— should I just tell her directly? Even if it would hurt her, but the hurt would be less than when she found out through her father.
“…… I found your father.”
“Really!? Where is he?”
Meo’s face was full of smiles, and I could not bear to look at her.
“I don’t know. Because……. Something happened…… we made some mistakes, so we lost his trail again.”
I really couldn’t mention the fact that he might already been caught by the yakuza, and it wasn’t even confirmed. Meo’s expression changed again like the eyes of a kitten.
“Is he still okay?”
A wonderful smile bloomed on Meo’s face.
And there were even tears glistening in the corner of her eyes. Should Meo really be worried for a father like this? In contrast with Meo’s joy, my feelings sank into a bottomless pit.
“I think your father probably wants to run away from the country.”
I glanced upwards, only to see Meo cocking her head.
“He mentioned something like that on the phone, so he probably wants to ask someone he knows to clear things up. And he didn’t contact you.”
“I think he wants to leave you here.”
“It’s impossible— he wouldn’t.”
Meo’s face became pale, but she didn’t rebuke me immediately like last time. Probably because I really did find Kusakabe Masaya this time?
I probably said something rather cruel that time.
“Think of this calmly. Your father did have a phone, so it’s not that he couldn’t receive your phone call, but he didn’t. He didn’t even planned to contact you.”
“Mr. Assistant, did you speak with Dad? Did dad say that to you?”
Meo tightly held my arm, and I shook my head. I should’ve walked in directly to look for him, I should’ve complained to Kusakabe Masaya because of him abandoning his daughter, but I didn’t have the courage.
“Dad would not abandon Meo!”
“Then why didn’t he pick up the phone!? Don’t you feel something off about this? It’s him who didn’t contact you!” I unknowingly raised my voice.
“You don’t know what kind of person dad is!” Meo answered me in a raised voice as well: “Why did you say that? Did dad say that? No, right? You didn’t talk to dad, right?”
That’s right. It’s because I was a coward, so not only did I not talk to him, I ran away without seeing his face because I was afraid of the reinforcements. What do you know? Do you really know how dangerous the world that your dad had a foot in is? All of a sudden, my anger almost leaked out, so I could only bite my lips to refrain from talking.
When I came to my senses, Meo was staring at me while covering her mouth. I might have blurted that out already, I’m really a big idiot.
“Sorry, but, it’s just that……”
Meo’s voice became unsteady. Though I knew she wasn’t blaming me, her expression made me feel hurt.
— Then what do you want me to do?
There is only one answer, to find Kusakabe Masaya; find him even if we have to tie him up and bring him to Meo. I don’t care if the truth is as Meo believes, but if he is really trying to abandon Meo, we have to stop him even if we have to use brute force. I tightly clenched my fists on my knees. We found him after so much effort, we almost had him in our hands, just because of me…… because of me—
Meo’s voice seemed somewhat frightened.
Probably because my expression was too scary?
I stood up and walked down the stairs without even looking back. Actually I wasn’t feeling impatient because of Meo, but I didn’t understand until that time.
Major was standing at the kitchen backdoor. He glanced at me, then said: “Don’t mind it so much, being able to locate his whereabouts is already quite good.” Even Major consoled me now, I feel so ashamed.
Then Tetsu-senpai appeared too, and the two started to check out the contents of the recordings from the spying device.
“Err…… I’ll help out too. Three people would be triple the speed.”
Major took off his earphones and stared at me with a disbelieving expression, while Tetsu-senpai just rolled his eyes, as if he wanted to say something.
“What’s with you, Vice Admiral Fujishima? It’s rare to see you so motivated. Are you sick?”
“No…… Is that alright?”
Though I felt angry because of my own helplessness, the things that I could help out with aren’t much, after all. So……
“I don’t really mind, but don’t leave anything out.” Major handed a pair of earphones to me.
Using the power of three people to listen to the contents of the half day recording, we still used up more than two hours to finish listening to them. Major revealed that this job is actually the most tiring of them all.
“The one that Vice Admiral Fujishima listened to is a more recent one. Did they say anything about Kusakabe Masaya?”
“Not at the moment.”
Talking about preparations of visas, having a shareholders’ conference, the schedule of next month’s conferences and so on, the conversations involved some deep contents, but they just didn’t mention Kusakabe Masaya. Knowing of how tiring this job is after doing it, I started to regret taking the initiative to help out.
“It’s strange. It seems that he wasn’t brought to the office, while Hirasaka-gumi, who’s on monitoring duty, don’t have any news as well.”
“Maybe he wasn’t caught?”
Tetsu-senpai took off his earphones.
“Tabara-gumi has only one office, so they probably didn’t bring him there…… No, it’s hard to say, and he might be imprisoned in a warehouse somewhere.”
“Tetsu-san, did the Kishiwada-kai take any action? Their place is quite big, so there are probably a lot of places to imprison a person.”
“No. Though they know about this, the one taking actual action are only the people from Tabara-gumi. We just don’t know their relationship with Hello Corporation, since not many people know of the internal matters about other gangs. If I had known this earlier, I should’ve got acquainted with more members of Kishiwada-kai.”
“But Tetsu-san, don’t you hate those enterprising yakuza?”
“Idiot, I hate them as long as they’re yakuza.”
So there are many types of yakuza…… What a confusing world, and the topic of the conversation steered to an eerier side. The days when I went to school seriously seemed to have went further away from me (and it’s the same in reality, as I almost never attended during the third semester) , I wonder how my classmates are right now. I’m fine today as well, and is currently listening to a recording of yakuza’s phone calls.
“Okay, since there’s no new information from the yakuza, maybe we can take action from the company. We’ll have to wait for news from Hiro then.”
Hiro appeared at about two in the afternoon.
“Sorry, I’m late. I heard all about it, thanks for your hard work. It’s lucky that Narumi wasn’t caught too. Have you guys found him already?”
I gave the seat of the large steel bucket to Hiro, while I sat beside Tetsu-senpai on the stairs.
“There isn’t any news from the office. How about you? Have you seen the secretary?”
“Ah, yeah, up till morning. It’s so tiring, I had to go back to have a nap, too. Though the secretary is somewhat cute, our topics of conversation didn’t really match.”
Yet another incomprehensible world. Accompanying the secretary till morning?
“The secretary of the Director of Hello Corporation. Though her job is officially a secretary, she’s actually just a clerk working part time, as the company is small.”
Hiro sat on the large, steel bucket, and handed a long, silver object to Major from his pockets. So it’s an IC recorder. Major connected the recorder to the computer.
“Did you get any new information?”
“Yeah, quite a lot. I’d like to edit it somewhat before handing it to Alice. Can you play it?”
“Edit?” I interrupted from the side.
Hiro wanted to answer me, but he stopped as the contents of the recorder started to play. At first, the noise of conversation and what seemed like the piano accompaniment of a jazz music, sounds of glass bumping into each other. Probably it’s a bar or some place like that?
‘Are you alone? Can I sit beside you?’ It’s Hiro’s voice.
‘Eh? Ah, o- okay.’
The voice of the young woman seemed to be somewhat surprised.
‘Listening to music while sitting here is the best. Didn’t someone play ‘April in Paris’ just now? It’s April right now too, and I wanted to play the songs, but someone picked it first, surprising me quite a lot.’
‘Eh— ? Haha.’
Ohhhh…… So he hits on girls like this! I couldn’t help but to be somewhat touched, though I’d probably be unable to do that.
“Hiro, you seem to be quite knowledgeable about jazz music.”
“Not at all. I just asked the bartender in advance.”
“Major, can you fast forward? The content in front isn’t related to the case.”
After fast forwarding the recording, a blissful voice suddenly came from the speakers of the computer when we played it again.
‘…… Hiro, you’re quite strong. Though your legs are so slender, heh heh. You gave me quite a fright when you picked me up and took me into the bathroom to have a bath!’
“No such thing, it’s because you’re light.’
Wait a sec! Just a little time had passed, and what happened!? Where is this!?
“Abducting her into a hostel after sweet talking her ten times per second, as expected of Hiro.”
“It’s probably because you hit the fast forward button.”
“But you don’t need to go to a hostel, do you?” Tetsu-senpai said.
“Not really, I’m just going along the flow.”
What do you mean by going along the flow? You……
“Fast forward a bit more. Ah, yeah, about this part.”
As I was frantically thinking of how to interrupt, the voice of the lady made me focus my attention on the speakers.
‘…… going on a vacation is great, I want to go too— best to a place where there are hot springs. Play at Fuji Q Highland, then bathing in the hot springs and staying for the night! Is that okay?’
‘The haunted hospital attraction there is very scary, I’d like to go once. I’m free anytime, how about you? How about we go there for a four days three nights stay in the Golden Week?’
‘Ahh— our company doesn’t even let us take a break during the Golden Week, it’s so disappointing!’
Tetsu-senpai and Major came closer as the conversation started to enter the main topic.
‘…… they owe a lot of debts, so I thought the company would close down last year. Then— I thought that I could leave after the company closes down, but then the Director put in quite a lot of effort to save the company. I really don’t know what happened, maybe he won in a lottery?’
The debts of the company— disappeared?
‘But if the company closes down, won’t your retirement pension vanish into thin air?’
‘Ah, you have a point. Oh yeah— then isn’t it better if I just leave right now? The company might have even more debts after this.’
‘It’s possible. Why don’t you be a NEET like me? Then we’ll go have a trip for two weeks.’
‘Haha, that doesn’t seem bad. Ah, look at that, there’s a trip to Italy, and it says here that it’s a twelve day trip.’
The sound of someone rummaging papers could be heard aside from the conversation, maybe they’re reading magazines?
‘But going for so many days, we’d have a lot of luggage. I’m really jealous of other people for being able to go for a vacation with a large bag, but I always feel lazy every time I get to the place where they sell the luggage bags. I’m thinking if I should buy them on shopping channel…… Ah, this Boston bag seems to be nice, I might be able to put in a month’s worth of clothes.’
‘…… Eh? I’ve seen this bag before.’
I stared at Hiro in shock. What in the world happened?
“Aside from Meo’s bag, I planted a traveling magazine in the room of the hostel, pretending that someone else forgot it. You can’t ask these questions directly, so I used a lot of effort to get on the topic.”
Hiro smiled wryly. I’m really speechless. I always have this thought, it’ll be so much better if he uses his efforts on other matters—
‘Didn’t I mention the vice-chairman of our company just now?’
‘Yeah, the ojisan who’s rather bad.’
‘That’s right, he’s somewhat handsome actually. I heard that he was a yakuza before this. On the day when he pays us our wages, he would bring the bag to the company, then when someone calls that day, he would go home directly after going out with the Director. Those two are really troublesome, never leaving a message as to where they went. I wish the Director would be more understanding, I have to answer a whole lot of phones about them too, really! Vice-chairman, too. He skipped work for the whole week. Maybe he went for a vacation?’
Unknowingly, my palm started to sweat. The conversation entered the critical part, and this could be seen from Tetsu-senpai and Major’s excited expression.
As Yi Ling-san said, the bag would be brought to the company on a regular basis. Then the phone— where did it come from? I listened closely to the conversation coming from the computer speakers. The conversation ended without involving the case. Then, only shuffling sounds came from it, and the voice of a blissful lady.
“Ah, sorry, this part ends here, because the second round is going to start.”
“You pervert!” “Stupid hustler!” “Public enemy of females!” “Sex offender!”
Tetsu-senpai and Major criticized Hiro in turn. As for me, I both admired Hiro’s actions, and also felt an inexplicable sorrow. These people are so strange…… Though I understand that, but there’s really no room for me to say anything.
Am I just using the name of an assistant to get closer to these people?
“Oh yeah, Major, can you edit out this part?”
“This is truly unsuited for Alice’s ears, it’d have a bad influence on her sex education.”
“Though I know a lot of things, but then things that I don’t understand pop up as well.”
Tetsu-senpai crossed his arms in front of his chest.
“It seems like those aren’t the money of the company, so maybe it’s really money from yakuza?”
“It seems so, but why are they keeping the money for them?”
“And why did their debts disappear?”
“Anyways, Alice would get these things clear.”
Major said in a sure voice.
“Having regular phone calls every time they pay wages, huh? Since the area of investigation is so small now, the rest is just to investigate their phone logs.”
“Ah…… That’s right!” Hiro answered.
Just like that, the threads have been connected.
Hello Corporation, Tabara-gumi, and Kishiwada-kai, possibly a gang superior to Tabara-gumi.
"But that doesn't mean that we found Kusakabe Masaya." Tetsu-senpai said while frowning: "We can now get news from the yakuza, but we must still locate Kusakabe Masaya."
That's true. After all, we don't even know if he's caught or managed to run away to some other place. If so, we have to launch a new investigation.
"The only thing that we can be certain of is, the person called Mikawa is deeply involved in this matter, so we should test him."
"We'll let Hiro and Major handle that."
"That's fine, so we can finally take action--"
At that moment, Min-san's angry roar came from the shop.
"Shut up. I told you that I don't know! Get lost if you're not here to eat!"
I opened the kitchen backdoor for about three centimeters and cautiously looked at the situation in the shop. Two tall men were standing at the entrance, glaring at Min-san behind the counter.
After seeing the face of one of them, I nearly cried out loud.
I subconsciously lowered my body, springing away from the kitchen backdoor.
"What is it, Narumi?"
Hiro asked me, and I signalled to him not to speak.
It's that guy. One of the two men who chased me at Hello Palace, the one with the leather coat. He was wearing the same clothes that he wore that day, which is why I recognised him immediately. The other one donned a dark gray suit, looking quite decent, but his dark brown sunglasses gave him an unusual presence. Why? Why do they know of this place? Were we followed? Surely not!
"Isn't this Hanamaru Ramen Shop? The phone number is xxx-xxxx, right?"
Leather Coat leaned his elbow on the counter, sizing Min-san up with a suspicious expression.
"That's right. So what?"
"She's a dark-skinned girl, fourteen, looking for her father. Do you know what kidnapping an underage girl means? Don't try to harbor her."
I heard someone gulp behind me. Indeed, they know that Meo is here.
"I don't know her. Lunch time is already over, so please go."
Min-san rebuked them fearlessly. I could clearly see veins appearing between the brows of Leather Coat, while Shades kept cool and silent.
"You bastard, don't pretend--"
At this moment, the footsteps came from the stairs.
"Ah, everyone is here! Miss Detective seemed to have fainted because of the heat from the hair dryer."
My heart nearly stopped at that moment. Though we immediately closed the kitchen backdoor, it was too late. Meo's clear voice caused the two yakuza in the shop to react, the two large silhouettes appearing at the entrance between the buildings.
"Meo, get in!"
Hiro rapidly opened the kitchen backdoor, pushing Meo and I inside.
"You two hurry up and hide, don't be seen."
After hearing Min-san's voice, strong arms pressed my head under the counter, while Meo held my arm tightly behind me.
Leather Coat could be seen walking into our territory from the crack of the door, while Tetsu-senpai was standing in front of him.
"Who are you people!?"
"That's what we would like to ask you."
Tetsu-senpai glared at the slightly higher eyes of the man in the leather coat. As for me, I hid below Min-san's hands, not daring to even move.
"We're here in Kusakabe-san's stead." Shades said in a low voice behind the other man: "We're here to get his luggage and his daughter."
"Why isn't Kusakabe-san here himself?"
"Oioioi, shouldn't you know? Kusakabe-san is a busy man."
Compared with the sneering Shades, Leather Coat obviously gets angry more easily.
"Get lost! We're not here to play!"
Tetsu-senpai blocked Leather Coat, who was about to walk in, with his muscular chest, while Leather Coat rammed Tetsu-senpai away with quite some force.
"Oi, Tetsu! Don't touch him!"
Hiro rushed forward and caught hold of Tetsu-senpai's hand. Leather Coat was also lowering his body, fists tightly clenched. I couldn't help but close my eyes and turn my head around to avoid looking at this, then the sound of someone hitting flesh came to my ears.
I opened one of my eyes to take a look, and could not understand what was happening all of a sudden. Tetsu-senpai was evidently stopped by Hiro, but the leather coat man was still hugging his abdomen, kneeling on the soil ground for some reason. The sunglasses guy hit the leather coat man with his knees, that was what I learnt after quite some time.
"Don't hit ordinary citizens."
Shades stood behind the Leather Coat, then mercilessly kicked the back of the Leather Coat's head. With a thud, what sounded like the sound of bones cracking echoed between the buildings, causing myself to curl up. Blood and spit dripped onto the soil.
"Sorry for that, we didn't educate them well enough."
While treading on the back of Leather Coat who was lying on the ground, Shades showed us a cold, cruel smile.
"But can you tell me why Kusakabe-san's daughter is in your care?"
As his tone was much more polite, it pressured us more than Leather Coat. As Tetsu-senpai was about to answer, Min-san opened the kitchen backdoor and walked out. She pushed away Tetsu-senpai and Hiro, standing in front of the yakuza alone.
"We don't have anything to say to you, scram!"
Walking past Leather Coat, who curled up his body like a tortoise, Shades walked to face Min-san. Though she was glared at from a distance of five centimeters or so, Min-san was still unmoved.
"We're here at Kusakabe-san's request. It can be said that you people are kidnapping a teenager."
"Don't speak nonsense, bring her father if you can. You're probably just spouting nonsense, right? Her father is now missing. If you have anything to say, you can call the police."
"Oi oi, how do you think we would know of this place?"
Shades took out a black phone and swayed it in front of Min-san. I nearly cried out loud.
"Missed calls log. What a dutiful daughter, calling him so many times."
Meo said that she called her father a lot of times, but nobody answered-- and she used the phone in the shop as well. Why? Why didn't I notice? Why didn't I realize this? My feeling right now is like the part of my body below my waist is buried in snow, while the blood flow to my brain is gradually lost.
Kusakabe Masaya was indeed caught by these people.
"Perhaps you should call the police? But if you call the police, you might not see Kusakabe-san anymore. He might just kick the bucket because of a sudden illness. I heard that their relationship is very good, so it'll be nice if they can meet alive."
After saying that, Shades turned around and stamped on Leather Coat's belly.
"How long are you going to continue to sleep? You'll trouble the shop owner!"
Shades continued before leaving:
"We'll come back and do business with you after this, so please take care of the girl and the luggage before that."
Meo kept sobbing. Six people were stuffed in the living room of Min-san's house, Min-san sat beside Meo while I sat opposite to her. As there were only three chairs there, Tetsu-senpai and Hiro could only stand, while Major directly sat on the floorboard.
"It's not your fault, so it won't help things even if we blame you."
Min-san said to Meo coolly. It was like my heart had frozen over. Is this all my fault? Talking to Meo so many times, I should've noticed it earlier.
"Why didn't you tell me that even yakuza are involved in this?"
Min-san gave all of us a scolding. I covered my face, while Major stared at the ground with his body rigid; Hiro bit his lip with his head lowered, while Tetsu-senpai looked away with a displeased expression on his face.
"I- It's better if I just move out, I can't trouble everyone anymore."
"Why are you moving out for? To look for those guys? You don't even know how they would treat you."
"Bu- But if I stay here......"
"Those guys don't dare to do anything. Didn't one of them hit his partner just now? That is a threat so that their opposing party would know that there's no difference even if they call the police. Because of the yakuza prevention laws, the yakuza wouldn't dare to take action in broad daylight, which is why they did that."
Min-san petted Meo's head. Meo was going to say something, but was stopped.
At that moment, the telephone at the entrace of the living room rang, giving me a huge fright. In the space that felt as if time had stopped, Min-san slowly rose, passed by my side then picked up the receiver.
Though I couldn't hear the contents, I seemed to be able to see Alice at the other side of the phone, sitting on the bed, hugging her knees, and with her face clouded.
"...... I'm okay. Promising to help without even thinking is my own fault."
This way of saying that felt even more hurtful than her directly blaming us.
Min-san's kindness is kind of cruel.
"Do you know of the current situation?"
Alice seemed to have said something, causing Min-san to glance at me. If Alice had her eyes glued to the surveillance cameras, she probably noticed what happened-- Kusakabe Masaya is already in the hands of the yakuza. I lowered my head due to the hopelessness in my heart. It's my fault. At that time-- If I went back in time to warn him, then things wouldn't turn out like this now.
"Can we still do anything to deal with it? They're yakuza, you know."
'We don't have any choice but to continue. I'm a detective, and I accepted a request. There is no other truth that is stronger than this on Earth.'
The voice from the receiver, seemed to me like Alice forced it out.
Min-san turned her head around again, but did not look at me this time. I felt a strange heat from behind me. When I turned my head around, I saw that Major stood up unknowingly, Hiro and Tetsu-senpai were looking here as well. The eyes of the three recovered their previous gleam. I gulped. It was the same as that time.
"What do we do?" Min-san said, as if she deliberately wanted us to hear it clearly.
Alice answered in a forceful voice:
'We have to get Kusakabe Masaya back.'
Min-san put down the receiver, and said some vicious words: "What a bunch of idiotic kids."
"Erm...... It's, better if......"
"The time when we call the police is the time when you leave this place."
Min-san answered quickly, and grabbed Meo's collar as she was about to protest.
"Don't think that you would be okay if you go away. Didn't you say that you don't want to call the police? Don't you want to save your dad? Meo, you, yourself raised the stakes, so we can only follow or bet some more. If you choose not to follow, those guys would probably be very happy."
Min-san pressed the red-eyed, speechless Meo onto a chair.
"And Narumi, you shouldn't meddle in this anymore."
I raised my head to look at Min-san's face, unable to comprehend her words for the moment.
I said in a somewhat sluggish voice.
"These guys don't matter, since they're NEETs without a future, but you're a high schooler! Don't you understand? They're yakuza!"
An inexplicable feeling was stuck in my throat. But I'm an assistant detective! There should be something...... something that I can help out with.
But I couldn't say anything.
I truly felt, when Leather Coat and Shades walked between the buildings, that my feet were trembling, unable to move. I only thought in my heart at that moment, hoping that Leather Coat would not remember my face-- what a shameful prayer.
I really don't know what to do, and suddenly felt like crying.
The yakuza took action very quickly, and started to harass the shop from the evening that day. Four or five delinquents gathered outside the entrance of the store. Though the two from the afternoon weren't present, you could see what type of people they were from their appearance and hairstyle.
They're so old-fashioned, really......"
Though Min-san said that, she didn't really seem to mind it. They didn't enter the shop or cause trouble, after all. They just sat on the beer crates outside of the shop, sending messages on their phone or glaring at the pedestrians. It's quite thoughtfully planned business obstructing operation, and the effect is quite good, as the customers were too intimidated to enter.
Tetsu-senpai and I stayed outside the kitchen backdoor, but we could only look at their actions helplessly. It seemed to me that senpai wanted to go out and KO them at once, but he's just restraining himself. If he really did so, he would fall into their trap.
"Blast, these guys, these guys, these guys......"
While muttering to himself, Tetsu-senpai used his fist to hit his thighs repeatedly. The reason that he stayed, was to protect Min-san and Meo. Hiro told me to stay as well, probably because he's worried that senpai couldn't stop himself from hitting them if he's alone?
"Narumi, can I beat you up?" He actually said something like that.
"As you wish."
I answered randomly. Tetsu-senpai looked as if he was shot, and showed me a helpless expression:
"What's with you! You should just cooperate and do a tsukkomi, or I'll really beat you up!"
"I really feel like being beaten up."
But even if I ask other people to beat me up, my helplessness still can't be cured.
Tetsu-senpai sighed after looking seriously at my expression:
"I think you'd better go home."
"If I go back, there'll be nobody to stop you if you lose control."
"Oh, please. If I really lose control, how could you stop me?"
He has a point.
"It's not that, I meant that you don't need to worry. I wouldn't take action myself. Alice is collecting the videos of these people right now, and she would hand it to Yondaime. They would get people to follow them when these people go back. As for Hello Corporation, Hiro is on it, so we can get new information no matter what."
Is that so? Yakuza have a lot of strongholds, so locating Meo's father isn't a simple ordeal. Especially at this time, the harrassment would only increase.
Though I can't help out with anything, a bad prenomition kept expanding in my mind.
"Just go back. You always go home late recently, so your sister is probably worried, right?"
That might be better. As I felt greatly ashamed of myself, it was like my body curled up in a ball.
Looking at the situation in Min-san's house before going home, I could only see Meo curled up in a corner, facing the outside while sitting in the corner of the study and holding the Boston bag in her hands. I couldn't tell if she was asleep, but it really isn't the time to talk.
When I walked out of the ramen shop, Min-san didn't say anything as well. So that the yakuza underlings gathered outside wouldn't see me, I chose to walk away from the back of the building.
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