Kamisama no Memochou:Volume 2 Chapter 5

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Chapter 5[edit]

It was only until the day that Yondaime and I became sworn brothers that I found out that not only the third floor, but the second floor was also rented by the gang. The partitions in the second floor was broken down to become a hall of about twenty tatamis, the floor was covered with wooden boards, and there was an altar in the room. It looks just like a kendo dojo.

Seven in the morning on Thursday, there were a lot of people gathered at the somewhat cold venue. Following Yondaime into the hall, I felt extremely surprised. So there were twenty...... no, probably even more than twenty in the gang? Were they all gathered here?

Almost all of them were wearing their uniform, the black T-shirts, but only Rocky and Pole were wearing an odd costume. A large shoulder pad cut out from cardboard was hung on their upper torso, like a cut out person used for advertisements, and also baggy trousers for students.

"Oi, what are you wearing that for? Is that a joke!?"

Yondaime glared furiously at the two.

"This is the haori for a kimono."

"As today is a day worthy of celebration, it's a pity that we don't have traditional warrior clothings to wear, so we made it yesterday."

Are these guys idiots......? As expected, Yondaime tore up the cardboard cut out of traditional warrior clothing .

"Ahhh, it's so cruel, I stayed up all night to do that too......"

"Idiot! Our guests are coming, do you want to embarrass us!?"

Yondaime roared, then Pole and Rocky cringed. Guests?

At this moment, the steel door was opened, and outside wind blew into the venue for the ceremony that completely lacked a sense of nervousness.

"Wow, it's so big in here!" The first person to enter, Meo, shouted joyfully.

"It's been quite a while since I've been in here." The next was Tetsu-senpai, who was unexpectedly donning a blazer. Is it going to snow later?

"I think the last time that I was here was probably when Hirasaka-gumi was founded?" I'm not sure if Major misunderstood something, but he was wearing military clothing of the Japanese naval army with an armband. What's with him? Is he here to act out a play?

"It's such a pity, you should really use this floor better." Hiro wore a pure white suit of a hustler.

The most surprising person who came in was Alice, carried on Hiro's back, and she was wearing a kimono too.

It was a sumptuous, luxurious furisode that was dyed with black edo yuzen dye, matched with pictures of pine, bamboo, plum and chrysanthemum. Even so, she was still holding her small, signature teddy on her hands. This scene really makes me speechless.

As Alice stepped into the hall, the lackeys immediately stood up and bowed to her at the same time:

"Ane-san, Second Brother Hiro, thanks for your hard work!"

"Thanks for your hard work!"

"Oi! Who told you to call all of them here!"

Yondaime's brows raised because of anger.

"Don't be like that, Alice can't come here alone anyways. I'd get angry if you don't tell me about such a fun thing." Tetsu-senpai pushed Yondaime in the chest after saying that. It's only at these times that I feel empathy with Yondaime, as we sighed at the same time.

Alice walked to my side and pulled on my sleeves:

"Aren't you working a bit too much? Things turning out like this, I really feel lazy to even scold you that you do things without thinking...... What is it? Why are you staring at me?"

"Eh......? Ah, it's nothing." I shifted my gaze in embarrassment, it's not that I'm really staring at her because I'm attracted to it. "So you have these clothes too?"

I once saw her in mourning attire, but she was only in her pajamas the other times, so I was quite surprised. To be exact, it felt like the only person who's wearing clothing suitable for the ceremony is Alice. Wearing a kimono, Alice had long, black hair that could almost touch the floor. From any angle you look at her, she just looks like a Japanese doll that can move.

"I was only in time to bring my formal clothings when I left my home."

"Oi, you guys should first sit down." Yondaime said to us, who were gathered at the entrance.

Of course, I have never seen a sake ceremony of yakuza, so it's impossible for me to know how formal the preparations are. But to outsiders like us, it feels quite impressive. There were a row of cushions placed at the left and right side of the hall, while two seats of honor were placed for Yondaime and I, while there were also ceremonial objects placed in front, sake bottles, salt, and a living sea bream. There were also two wine dishes. Twelve huge candles were lighted in the ceremonial hall of the room, and there were also five scrolls hung behind them. These were written on them from right to left:

'Takeuchi Riki'

'The Current Emperor'

'Amaterasu'

'Emperor of the Five Grains'

'Edajima Heihachi'

What is this......?

"You could say that Yondaime is a business-type yakuza......" Alice told me: "The origins of the Emperor of the Five Grains is debateable, but he's the third among the three sovereigns and five emperors. It is said that he gave mankind agriculture and medicine, and he invented strings for instruments and markets, so he's undeniably a businessman, so the businessmen pray to him as their god. As for the other four, you probably don't need me to explain, right?"

Hey, I do need an explanation. I have absolutely no idea of what the leftmost and rightmost ones are......

"Takeuchi Riki is......"

"A Man." A man in black T-shirt answered.

"A man among men."

"And Edajima Heihachi is......?"

"A Man."

"A man among men among men!"

I know that too...... But I don't really feel like knowing more about this......

"Oi, didn't I tell you not to continue to misunderstand me?" Yondaime interrupted: "My family are just regular businessmen, not yakuza. If I'm really a yakuza, how can I inherit my father's business?"

Only at these times, Alice and the black shirted men would pretend not to hear anything at the same time. Do they really want Hina to be the forth generation of a yakuza?

Somewhat displeased, Yondaime said with a voice that penetrated the whole hall:

"Let's begin!"

The sake ceremony was much simpler than I thought. As we're going to become sworn brothers of equal status, we would only need to fill the two dishes with sake and drink it. Tetsu-senpai, as the person who filled the wine, filled up the dish, then Yondaime turned to me and said:

"Do you know how the name 'Hirasaka-gumi' came to be?"

I shook my head. I never noticed before this, but it's different from Yondaime's surname

"There's this fellow called Hirasaka before this, he gathered the jobless people in this town to form a team. There wasn't a title called NEET before this, and he's not here anymore."

Yondaime's wolf-like gaze become slightly gentler.

"He's an idiot who loves movies. He named the gang, designed an emblem and set up tons of meaningless rules, settle arguements with fights, having a sake ceremony when joining the gang and the likes."

"Is that so."

"Often watching yakuza movies, the only Western movie Hirasaka liked was 'Ben-Hun'. Have you watched it before?"

"Yeah......"

At that moment, I immediately realized what Yondaime wanted to say after that. Is it that? Are we really going to do that? Uwaa, that's...... really embarrassing.

"To become sworn brothers, we must do that."

"Wouldn't this completely destroy our Japanese culture?"

"Shut up!"

Yondaime picked up the wine dish in front of me. Having no choice, I could only pick up the dish in front of Yondaime.

The scene when the main character in the movie 'Ben-Hun' drank with his companions-- taking the wine dish of the other, cross each other's arms and drinking it directly. When the wine dish reaches the mouth of the two at the same time, the double loop formed from the arms, shoulders until the head would form a chain.

When the wine dish reaches the mouth of the two at the same time, the double loop formed from the arms, shoulders until the head would form a chain.

The first time I drank wine was the wine in the sake ceremony with a yakuza, probably I'm the only one who did that in his high school life in Japan, huh? The sake was spicy and bitter, and it felt like my tongue was going to break off.

After that, we stacked the dishes together after finishing them.

"Alice, since you're the go-between, say something."

Yondaime said to Alice, kneeling at the highest place of honor at my side, beside Tetsu-senpai.

"Anything? I didn't prepare a script for saying anything at any sake ceremonies."

"Just say anything."

"Regardless of health, illness, or joy, thou shalt--" "Stop joking!" "If anyone requests it, I can also perform Takasago (Note: It's a song from a Japanese play)." "Stop playing around......"

When Yondaime was about to stand up in impatience, Alice smiled wryly and waved her hand:

"Sorry, sorry. I'll be serious this time."

While hugging her bear, Alice walked towards us in small steps, and sat down when the three of us formed a triangle, pushing away her sleeve with an elegant posture.

Firstly, she told this to Yondaime:

"I hope that you can take care of Narumi. Though he looks like he's unreliable on the outside, he's even more unreliable inside. I'm guessing that he probably thinks that Hirasaka-gumi is just a game where kids pretend to be yakuza. Or he wouldn't dare to make such a terrifying request, isn't that right?"

Then, she shifted her gaze from Yondaime to me. I was quite shocked. I was seen through again......

"I hope that your brotherhood would just end up only as a form. I don't think you really understand, but Hinamura Souchiro would not just become sworn brothers with anyone just to impress other people or because he's drunk...... Anyways, he's actually silently acknowledging your strengths."

"Don't speak of these irrelavant things!"

Yondaime shouted. I was startled and turned to look and him, only to shift my gaze again due to being glared at.

Yondaime-- acknowledges me?

How can this be? Because......

"You don't use your brain most of the times, but for some reason, when things become out of our control at the last second, your assumptions would instead make things seem quite logical."

A warm smile appeared on Alice's face.

"Instead of being a detective, it's better for you to get another occupation."

Another occupation?

After Alice's speech ended, she stood up and turned to the others.

"And so, hurry up and give applause for celebration. Staying in such a big room gives me a headache, so please raise your hands......"

Before Yondaime even had time to complain, everyone stood up, and an invigorating applause rang in the hall.

*

"Mnn, this place is more or less like my room, I can relax more here."

After bringing Alice to the study, she immediately stretched out her feet on the bed, and looked around her as if she was in her own room. Hey hey, don't forget that you're wearing a kimono, this posture is really dangerous......

"Why didn't you go home yet?"

Yondaime walked into the crowded room. Meo and I sat at a side of the bed, Major sat on the table with the computer and telephone on it, while Hiro sat on the bookshelf near the entrance. Only Tetsu-senpai left immediately after the ceremony ended. He said that he was still worried of Min-san, so he would continue to guard Hanamaru Ramen Shop.

"Don't we need to have a tactical meeting right now? And now Yondaime's involved in this too." Alice said.

Yondaime glared at Meo sitting beside me, while the best thing about Meo is that she could still face him with a smile in this situation. In the end, Yondaime sat on another bookshelf.

"Uwaa! The US aircrafts wallpapers I saved in the computer are all gone! Vice Admiral Fujishima, look what you've done!" Major roared. The computer was actually picked up by Major and randomly set up.

"If you have time to collect wallpapers, can't you please install Norton Antivirus first......?"

"Even if I installed it, nobody in Hirasaka-gumi could update it."

He has a point, nobody here would think of updating the antivirus software regularly. Eh? Why is Major playing with the computer since just now? After a glace, it seems like he was printing information from his USB disk. And then, a sound came from the printer, and a paper was printed out.

Major kicked the cardboard box beside his foot to the center and used it as a table, then placed the printed paper on top of it.

"What map is this?"

Yondaime pushed away Hiro and stared at the paper.

"...... Ahhh, it's the strongholds of Tabara-gumi."

Seeing the two places circled with red pen, Yondaime seemed to realize it immediately.

"As expected of Yondaime. This one is the office, while the other one is a room in a building used as a warehouse. Of course, we aren't sure where Kusakabe is right now. Since it can't be confirmed from the recordings, and the people in charge of monitoring the places didn't report any suspicious people brought there."

Alice squeezed between Meo and I like a caterpillar, and pointed at the red circles in turn while saying. Both of the places were quite a distance form the station.

"The case this time is quite special, because we have already grasped the true identity of the kidnappers. I would like to take the initiative to call them and request them to let Kusakabe Masaya answer the phone. No matter what, we must make sure if Kusakabe is alive or not. If we're lucky, we might even be able to confirm his current location."

"Can we talk to dad?"

Blocking Meo who was about to go forward, Yondaime said:

"Wait. Do you mean we don't negotiate with these people? Just directly barge in and save him?"

"Unfortunately, that's correct."

"It's not that simple. Don't look down on Tabara-gumi, this is different from ambushing them on the road. Don't be so ridiculous even if you want to borrow our strength, I can't let my underlings get caught."

"Anyways, we must first make sure of Kusakabe's location, then we can decide if we want to fight or not."

Yondaime gnashed his teeth.

"Sou-san, I'm coming in."

The door opened, and Pole poked his head inside.

"There's this thing in front of the entrance."

A small box entangled with tape was held in Pole's hand.

"What's that?"

"It says 'Kusakabe' on the lid."

Yondaime's expression changed immediately after hearing that, and he snatched the box. He placed the box on the cardboard box table and tore down the tape.

After he looked at the contents of the box, his brows twitched. When Alice and Meo was about to check it out, Yondaime immediately closed the box.

"Don't look!"

"What are you doing?"

"...... Don't look."

It's more abnormal for Yondaime to be able to stay calm. Hiro's face was pale, and I think I might be the same...... That's because I could clearly see the contents of the box from my position.

The box was filled with the phone that I saw with Kusakabe Masaya, and there was also a human ear stained with blood.

My hand tightly holding my knee could not move. They're serious...... Tabara-gumi is serious about this.

"What's inside?"

"An ear."

Alice hesitated.

The phone rang, and my throat felt as if it's being pulled at.

"Major, get it for me."

Yondaime caught the cordless phone that Major threw over. Major connected the phone to the computer, letting the computer speaker blare out the conversation.

"This is Hirasaka-gumi."

'I sent you a present. Is the girl over there?'

Meo was about to stand up, but I stopped her.

"Is Kusakabe still alive?"

'I feel like letting him talk to his daughter while his other ear is still here.'

Major took a sleek, silver object and threw it to Yondaime. After picking it up, Yondaime stuck it to the receiver with a small piece of tape. It was an IC recorder. So Major planned to record the conversation. Understanding Major's nimble actions in a flash, Yondaime sure has acute senses.

"Kusakabe's daughter is by my side right now, do you want her on the phone?"

'Tell her to pick up the phone.'

Yondaime wordlessly handed the receiver to Meo, while Meo took it with her hands trembling slightly.

"I'm...... Meo."

There was a silence at the other side of the phone for a moment.

Then, the hoarse voice of a man came from the phone, and it was familiar. Oh yeah, I heard it that dawn outside the hut, it was Kusakabe Masaya's voice.

'...... Idiot. Why haven't you escaped!'

"Dad!" Meo shouted: "Dad, are you alright!? Are yo okay!? Where are yo--"

'Shut up! Stop caring about me! Just get all the money that you want, get rid of the rest and escape to Thailand!'

"What are you talking about? How could I do such a thing......"

'You're not my child, I don't want to care about this!'

Oi, what are you talking about!? Angry shouts and sounds of fighting came from the other side of the phone. Even so, Kusakabe Masaya continued to shout:

'Haven't you realized yet? Your mother and I had a fake marriage. It's just for the sake of fooling the customs that we're living together, you're not even my daughter, so just get back to Thailand!'

"Bu- But, dad......"

'It's a waste of time and effort anyways. Things have ended, so don't meddle anymore!'

Kusakabe Masaya's voice became extremely solemn. A waste of time and effort? What does that mean? Since you risked the danger of being caught in the city, what are you trying to do?

Lastly, a loud shout in another language came from the other side of the phone, and it seemed like Kusakabe Masaya used all of his effort to shout that out. And what interrupted his voice after that was the sounds of something rolling about and angry shouts.

What? What did he say?

'Talking time with papa has ended, now you'll listen to me.' The man just now picked up the phone again.

"Let me...... Let me talk to dad!"

'Shut up! You just take the cash and the phone that we sent you just now to the entrance of Tomin Commercial Building. There would be people from our gang watching over there, and we'll keep in contact by phone that time.'

Yondaime snatched the phone from Meo's hands:

"Damn, what are you talking about! You're the ones forced to a corner, so don't get so cocky!"

'Blasted kid, shut up! Who are you to think that you can talk things out with us!? We're not playing around. If the girl doesn't come, I'll cut off a finger from Kusakabe's hands every two hours, and when there are no more--'

"NO!" Meo shouted.

At that moment, another commotion started from the other side of the phone. Shouts of a somewhat feminine male voice came:

'-- Hey, who are you calling? Didn't I tell you not to take action by yourself, listen to my orde--'

'Stop that noise!' 'Outsiders should shut up!'

'I'll call you later!' And he hung up immediately after saying that.

The room that was cold to the bones was only filled with sounds of weeping, and I only noticed at that moment that Meo was crying on my arm. The other parts of my body felt like a rusted machine, only the part that Meo was touching felt warm.

I felt so lifeless that I couldn't move.

"...... There seems to be arguments at the other side."

Hiro's words broke the silence.

"Letting Kusakabe Masaya on the phone, this is an inexplicably dumb action. It might be the actions of the small potatoes in Tabara-gumi taking action by themselves." Alice smiled, slightly pleased: "The recording just now could prove that Kusakabe Masaya did not defalcate the company. They probably never thought that we could record it immediately, I wouldn't have done that if it were me."

Indeed. Kusakabe Masaya ran away because his defalcation failed, that's the version of the script that they want. It's obvious from the recording that he was imprisoned by someone, so the recording has the power to overthrow the whole script.

But Kishiwada-kai is different from the police, would they believe in things like evidence?

` The manipulator behind the scenes-- who is it? Is it the other person who gave orders to Tabara-gumi?

"What if we use the recording to force them to negotiate with us?"

Yondaime took down the IC recorder from the receiver.

"A pity, but it can't be done. After all, we can't negotiate in this matter, Tabara-gumi is definitely planning to kill Kusakabe Masaya."

"Then what should we do? We obviously have more trump cards than them, why do we still have to be limited?"

Yondaime made an impatient noise, while our gazes naturally fell on Meo.

The main reason that our options are so limited would be because of Meo's unauthorized actions. Maybe she felt the atmosphere, she deeply pressed her face on my arm.

"It's because I'm too proud, so that I can seek happiness for all people."

Alice said. Her words doesn't seem to be polite consolations for Meo. We raised the stakes ourselves, so we can't give up right now.

"Or we can do as Kusakabe says, just ignore him? Helping a woman to run away isn't that hard. Didn't you hear it just now? He didn't even want to be rescued."

After hearing Yondaime's words, Meo's shoulders trembled. At times like this, an inexplicable anger for Yondaime rose in my heart. Shut up! Don't deliberately say these things like they're confirmed.

'You're not even my kid.'

'We just got together to fool the customs.'

My anger even shifted to Kusakabe Masaya, who I never even met. Stop joking! Everyone- everyone's trying to save you, how could you say such cruel words to Meo!?

He said things like that-- does Meo even want to save her father anymore?

The young girl tightly leaning against my arm stayed silent.

"Major, please rewind the recording. I want to listen to Kusakabe's words again to confirm something."

"Alice, stop that." I spoke for Meo. Listening to that again? It's too cruel. After glancing at me, Alice didn't answer. Major connected the IC recorder to the computer speaker and rewinded it a bit.

'-- you're not even my daughter, so just get back to Thailand!'

'It's a waste of time and effort anyways. Things have ended, so don't meddle anymore!'

The sound of Meo's crying intensified, and Kusakabe's suffocating voice came from the speaker at the last moment. Not Japanese, but some incomprehensible language, then a rough voice drowned it. I really couldn't look at Meo right now, and rose to turn off the recorder; but Major switched it off one step quicker.

The awkward silence stung as if there were metal fragments mixed in the air.

Only Alice was indifferent to that, nodded and said:

"-- I understand now. So that's how things stand."

"What do you know?" Hiro asked: "I think he said something at the last moment......"

"It's Thai. Just like that, all the matters have been tied up."

For some reason, Alice's expression made people feel refreshed.

I shifted my gaze from Alice to Meo, while she buried her face in her hands.

"What is--"

"We can't say for the moment."

Alice rapidly interrupted me.

"And I might never be able to speak of this matter. And also, if we can't save Kusakabe Masaya, this sentence would be brought to the grave with him."

Don't talk like that. I know that even if you don't say so.

"To save a person that doesn't want to be saved, this isn't our style." Hiro said with a hoarse voice.

"But even so, my client isn't Kusakabe Masaya." Alice said: "His stubbornness does not concern me. His despair, lies, excuses, abandonment, giving up, all of them cannot hinder the truth on my hands. I will definitely rescue him without so much of a scratch."

*

Alice went back to Hanamaru Ramen Shop on Hiro's car, while almost all the lackeys were out to check out Tabara-gumi's strongholds. The only people left were Yondaime, Pole, Rocky, Major and I. As for Meo, we left her in the study to cool down.

Looking at the clock in the office, it was already over noon; the long Thursday was only half over. Cutting off a finger every two hours-- what a random threat, Yondaime even laughed at that. But I couldn't laugh.

Major occupied the sofa of the office, calling someone while saving the recording to the computer with one hand, then said after stuffing his notebook-sized computer into his backpack:

"Alice would definitely be able to check out the phone log just now, but most probably it'll be from a handphone, so we wouldn't know the location just now."

"Does that mean our only clue left is the recording?"

"That's right. I know someone in the Coast Guards who knows how to use the sonar, so I'm planning to ask him to check out if there's anything that we can use as evidence. But there's only one day left, so I don't know if it would be on time."

"Ten fingers would mean twenty hours-- one day left. If the threat was real, then we must find the location for Kusakabe Masaya's confinement in a day, think of a plan and barge in to save him.

"I could confirm the pathway of our invasion of time is sufficient, but we don't even know where he is right now."

"But didn't we lock on to two places now? Can't we start monitoring from now?"

"But that would be assuming that he's imprisoned at the offices of Tabara-gumi, right? There are countless places that could be used to imprison someone. If they just imprison him in a basement of any building, we wouldn't be able to find him."

I bit my lips. Indeed, the only evidence that can be traced to Kusakabe Masaya is only the IC recorder in Major's pocket.

"Weren't there some people arguing at the back? Something like outsiders shut up, so there might be people not from the gang present at that time."

I felt an electric current flowing through my body.

A panicked voice of a young man. A person not from the gang.

"Major, lend me the recorder for a sec."

"What do you want to do with it?"

Lazy to even explain, I just took out my phone and called Yi Ling-san.

"...... Ah, it's me. Sorry for yesterday. Eh? Ah, it's okay. Can you......"

I felt my voice getting louder:

"Yi Ling-san, would you be able to recognise Director Mikawa's voice...... That's right, we have one. Please listen to this recording."

Major widened his eyes in surprise. I snatched the IC recorder from his hands, then pressed the play button while pressing it to the receiver.

I hung up after thanking Yi Ling-san, then immediately called Alice. My voice trembled when I wan explaining, and my tongue became rather slow because of excitement.

'...... I understand. I'll ask Hiro to keep an eye on Mikawa's side. Ask Yondaime to send a few people from Hirasaka-gumi to Mikawa's home.'

I'm not sure if it's just me, but I felt that Alice was rather excited at the other side of the phone as well. When I was about to turn to Yondaime, he already picked up the phone on the table to give orders to his lackeys. He's quick!

And then, Rocky pushed open the steel door with energy that almost tore the door apart, and rushed in. Major already left for about ten minutes.

"Sou-san, they sent something else again!"

Yondaime snatched the coffee colored envelope from Rocky's hands. The word 'Kusakabe' that was written outside the paper with marker pen looked blurry due to something oozing out from the bag.

When the tape was torn down, something like a coffee colored caterpillar rolled out from it. A strangled sound came from my parched throat.

It was a whole, cut out finger.

Yellowish bones could be seen in the dried blood, and my vision suddenly blurred. "A- Aniki, are you alright!?" Rocky supported me, who nearly fainted, and brought me to the sofa. While sitting on the sofa, a sense of wanting to puke came upon me.

"Did you see who sent this?" Yondaime threw the finger back to the paper bag and asked.

"No. They stuck it to the mailbox with tape."

"Hmph! Gutless people. Do you think I'll get scared just like that?"

Gutless? This is gutless?

I really don't know how insensitive Yondaime is.

I raised my head to look at the clock, indeed, it has been two hours and thirty minutes from that time. They're serious.

"Oi, Gardening Club kid. Don't get scared just from these meaningless performances."

"His fingers might all be cut off, how is this gutless!?" I unknowingly stood up and shouted.

"Calm down, it's impossible that they would do that."

"Why can you still say thi--!"

I didn't even see Yondaime's fists coming. The more surprising thing is, I almost didn't feel a hint of pain at all. I just felt that my body became weightless, then I fell onto the sofa with a plunk. Bouts of pain gradually came from my chest, then I realized that I was punched in the heart.

"I don't think your job is to scream blue murder over here, is it?"

The eyes of the wolf gazed directly at me.

"Do you understand? We can't just take action as soon as we know the location of Kusakabe. Some things can't be handled just by getting a crowd. Listen, I'm only helping because that girl is your friend."

Yondaime forcibly pressed my shoulders onto the sofa and said:

"Think of some other way, bro."

When I walked into the study, Meo was hugging her Boston bag on the bed, facing the walls, unmoving. I sat down in front of the turned on computer.

Did she hear all that I shouted out just now? I thought while looking at Meo's back. I'm just too careless. I could not tell her the matter about the finger being sent here, or she might just rush out again.

I'll have to think of some other way.

I repeatedly thought of Yondaime's words. I couldn't think of anything. As Alice said, they don't have any wish of negotiation.

But if we continue to hide Meo like this, ignoring their wishes, what would happen then? Their condition is actually quite troublesome as well, so should we collect information as soon as possible when both parties are in trouble? I shook my head to fling out the thought that was too good to be true. These matters are just impossible. The opponents of Tabara-gumi aren't just us, if Kusakabe fell into Kishiwada-kai's hands alive, that would be fatal. They planned to kill him from the start. Might they have already killed him after the phone call? Cutting down fingers from a corpse would probably be easy. As my imagination kept running away to an exaggerated and bad side, I pressed my thumb onto my thigh with force.

Is there a simpler way of knowing the place of his confinement? Oh yeah, Mikawa isn't a yakuza, so threats might work on him. He probably goes to work almost everyday, so it's easier to find him as well. If we kidnapped Mikawa and used him as a hostage, would that be better? That won't work, from the phone just now, Mikawa seems to be powerless, Tabara-gumi seems to have all the power.

Suddenly noticing that I easily thought of ways like threats or kidnapping, I felt scared of myself. I looked at my palms. Right now, I might already be numb of my daily life. Or maybe I should just rush out myself, give Mikawa a punch and kidnap him? That's not so, I probably just want to ask people from Hirasaka-gumi to do it? Self-disgust welled up in me. I obviously can't do anything myself, and even so--

I raised my head because I felt a gaze on me.

Meo was silently looking at my face. Trails of tears were still on her face.

Having her father say that to her, being sad is inevitable.

And even so-- does she still want to save him?

Oi, Meo. Things that have been damaged can never recover to it's original state. Even if you and your father met again by some miracle, the dream that you'll be a family again has already completely disappeared.

And the kind big sisters living at Hello Palace can't live in Japan anymore. Everyone's lives have been destroyed......

But Meo just smiled while shaking her head:

"There's nothing that can't be recovered, it's just that Mr. Assistant doesn't know it."

"...... Mnn, I don't know. I don't know what Meo is talking about."

The last words that Kusakabe Masaya said.

Those words-- are they the key? The thing that he wanted to do. His feelings.

But for some reason, I couldn't pursue the matter anymore.

"Even Miss Detective doesn't know about some things. I heard it that time, she said that she doesn't know why Dad wants me to hide with the money."

At that time-- the contents of the conversation Alice had with me. So she heard all that?

'--Among them, the only inexplicable choice is to tell Meo to hide the two hundred million yen, and hide himself as well.'

This is the mystery that continues to tie Alice to the case.

"I know the reason."

I blankly stared at Meo's lips.

"I know why. Just as Meo love Dad, Dad loves Meo as well."

Why?

Why is this girl so--

"...... Having such cruel words said to you, do you still want to save your father?"

"Yeah." Meo threw the Boston bag down the bed, at the side of my foot. "I don't want the money, I just want Dad to come back."

At this moment, something started to link up in my heart.

Just want dad to be back.

That's what she wanted. Why did I make things so complicated?

The context is simple.

It's okay if Kusakabe Masaya could just come back.

And the money is now in my hands. The two hundred million yen--

Kishiwada-kai, Mikawa, Hello Corporation, money laundering. These factors resounded in my mind, intercrossed, and formed a concrete shape.

The road that was so zigzagging and roundabout that it was stupid became straight. Will this really work? I poured water into the waterway in my mind to test it out. The first problem is time. Today is Thursday, and it's already two in the afternoon. There's still tomorrow left. It would be barely in time. Next up is the number of people. Though I have next to no friends, I could still borrow Hiro and Yondaime's strengths. That's right, I could also ask Yi Ling-san and the others for help. Of course, there are some flaws in this. I should say that there's a lot of flaws. But Alice and Major should be able to close up the loopholes. Lastly, I could only rely on Tetsu-senpai's fists.

The rest is the arguments and timing.

I stood up. The trembling of my knees are no longer caused by fear.

"...... Mr. Assistant?"

Meo looked at me, confused, while I nodded in answer:

"If you don't want it, then I'll take it then."

"...... What?"

"I'll spend it all, all of the two hundred million yen."

Temporarily ignoring the wide-eyed Meo, I picked up my phone. Even my fingers pressing the buttons were trembling in excitement. Calm down, I need to calm down.

"Is it Alice? I'm going to tell you my plan right now. If there are parts that are too far-fetched, please say so."

'Plan? What are you talking about?'

Interrupting the words of the impatient NEET detective, I started to explain my plan. The feverish mutterings were fragmented at times, but the words continued to gush out form my mouth. It's as if they weren't thought out by myself. It might be possible that at this moment, I'm just reading out the contents in God's notebook word by word.

"...... How is it?"

Saying all of them almost in one breath, I asked her opinion and started to pant. Alice answered in a voice full of reluctance:

'Many parts are just too far-fetched, it's quite a wonder that you could think of a plan that's so stupid.'

At that moment, darkness appeared before me.

"But--"

And this time, Alice was the one to interrupt me..

'But I'll help you to handle the far-fetched parts. Just do it. You're in charge of the front-line commands, while my mission is just to hack in, right?'

I gazed at the ceiling and heaved a long sigh. If I relax right now, I'll feel so happy that I'll shout (even in front of Meo).

"Yeah. Please make a large-scale ruckus."

'I just have two requests.'

"What is it?"

'The first is the matter about the remittance into the accounts.'

The orders that Alice gave me that moment wasn't something that I could easily understand.

"...... Why must we do that? They'll know of the details easily like that."

'They don't have that much time to check the accounts and the sum of money.'

"But we don't need to do that even the--"

'I already know what Kusakabe Masaya wants to do.'

After hearing Alice's words, I stayed silent.

The thing that Kusakabe Masaya wanted to do- the only mystery that tied Alice to the case.

The matter-- finally had an answer.

But how is that connected to the inexplicable things that she wants me to do?

'I can't explain right now.'

"Yet again! You do that every time!"

'About this matter, the difference between the truth and the facts won't be a problem. And I cannot explain the reason that I cannot explain this. So just follow my instructions about the remittance of money into the accounts.'

It just gets more and more muddled. Feeling Meo's worried gaze at the side, I repeatedly stood up and sat down again on the bed because of impatience.

'Narumi, didn't I discuss with you about the helplessness of a NEET detective before this?'

Alice continued to say, as if tightly holding the receiver:

'I am a NEET detective, I don't have the power to protect or to help people from birth, and I probably wouldn't have the power to do so in my life. Because that was written in my page of God's notebook. Even so, Even if that's so, Narumi......'

I suddenly thought, is she crying? Alice is crying? How is that possible? But listening to the voice that was gradually growing weaker, it was like my throat was throttled by someone.

'There are times that I have to bleed, letting my blood mix with old, dry bones, pulling myself back to the borders of the world. Even if it's a fake magic that is meaningless to people other than me...... Do you understand what I mean?'

Of course I don't understand. I stayed silent. I just felt that if I said something that I shouldn't without thinking, Alice would devastated at the other side of the phone.

"...... I understand. I'll follow your instructions."

After awhile, it was like I saw Alice smiling at the other side of the phone.

'You're really bad at lying, you know. Even though I can't see your face, I know that from your voice.'

"So sorry for that. What's your second request?"

'You must remember to return the Boston bag to Meo.'

My jaw dropped, and I looked at the Boston bag by my leg.

"...... Why? Well, it doesn't matter, but is there anything else inside?"

'Yeah, all the answers are inside.'

I couldn't say a word. I don't understand at all. Alice's answer told me that she didn't want to explain anymore. Besides, it would just feel like dumb questions if I continued to ask, so I answered in a small voice: "Got it."

At the instant when I was about to hang up, I heard some rather rare words. Alice apologized.

'Sorry, I think I'm looking at you somewhat differently now. Thank you.'

I stared at the now silent phone for awhile. It feels as if Alice's slight warmth was on it.

My conclusion is, about Alice's thoughts and the feelings entangling her, I couldn't understand a thing.

Even so-- she still believed in my words as her assistant.

That's why I need to trust her as well.

"Are you serious?"

When I reported to Yondaime right after I walked out of the study, that was his reaction. Pole and Rocky said something like: "Erm, aniki...... Can you explain it again?" "Forget it, idiots like us can't understand aniki's great plan."

"Indeed, an odd detective would have a strange assistant."

Yondaime narrowed his eyes that were sleek like a wolf, and scratched his porcupine-like hair.

"How many people do you need?"

"Well, as much as possible, because there's two hundred million yen. Ah, but we need people who have an identity card and an account. They must also be people who would listen to instructions and accept it......"

"I know that, who do you think I am!"

"And then...... Lastly, people who can use force......"

Yondaime turned over and ordered Pole and Rocky behind him:

"Get a car that can't be traced, then find four people other than you two."

"Understood! We're going to barge into enemy territory, right?" "I'll go hone my manly aura right away!"

After the two walked out of the room, Yondaime glanced at the door of the study and said quietly:

"To Kusakabe, being caught by the people from Tabara-gumi might be better."

I gulped, then raised my head to look at Yondaime.

I have this feeling too. Though I don't know why, I just felt that Kusakabe Masaya didn't want us to save him. Is it connected to the reason that he stayed in the city while risking his own life?

"If so, our enemies are not only Tabara-gumi, but himself as well. Understand?"

After hesitating for a moment, I nodded.

'Narumi, you're becoming more and more like Alice.'

Those were the first words that Hiro said to me after hearing my explanation on the phone. They said that again. I'm like Alice? How?

'Especially the point that you'll talk nonsense seriously. But it feels quite fun. Okay, I'll tell the girls that I know. Any other things that I can help out with?'

"Erm...... As we need to know where Mikawa would go tomorrow......"

'Got it. I'll keep an eye on him, so just relax.'

'Vice Admiral Fujishima is probably a land-type. After boasting a whole lot of grand ambitions, then cooperating to dispatch manpower, this type of thinking is really incomprehensible to marine-type people like me.'

To me, what Major said was more incomprehensible to me. What does marine-type mean?

'Then what's my mission?'

"This is actually a precautionary step, to block telephone communications. Can you do that?"

"Oh, I see, so you want them to be unable to confirm with the phone. This isn't hard, but don't you know where Mikawa would be that day? Where should I block the telephone?'

"I'm guessing that he might be at the company, but I'm not sure yet."

Ah, no, wait. If Mikawa's phone couldn't call, he wouldn't be able to give orders, then can the plan still proceed? I felt a chill because of the rashness of my plan. Major said at that moment:

'Mnn? Then wouldn't it be okay if I just block the bank's phones?'

Ah...... That's right.

I never thought about it, but it's actually much better.

Indeed, I can't do anything alone, it's a good thing that Major was here. But I couldn't just frankly express my gratitude, but said something like this:

"Major, it seems that you're only good at thinking about these things."

'I'm not as good as Vice Admiral Fujishima. We'll meet again at Yasukuni Shrine!'

Explaining the plan so that the clueless Yi Ling-san would understand was really quite a trial.

'To be honest, I'm still not too clear about the current situation.'

"I'm really sorry, I can't explain all of it to you."

It's hard to explain the details on the phone, and I don't really want Yi Ling-san and the others to know about the criminal part of this.

'All of this is for Meo, right?'

"That's right."

'I understand. I'll explain things to the people in our building. Though it might be slightly late, I'll tell you how many people are willing to help today.'

"Ah, it's okay no matter how late."

I'll have to stay up all night today anyways.

That night, Meo and I poured all the money in the bag onto the table, then packed them up in envelopes.

Hiro and Yondaime gathered more people than I could imagine. Thinking that I'm involving hundreds of people in this stupid plan, my hands filling the envelopes stared to tremble.

During the last stage, my fingers and brain started to numb. Staring at the countless Fukuzawa Yukichis on the countless ten thousand yen notes in a dark room alone with Meo, my thoughts that time were that two hundred million yen seems to be not as much as I imagined. Divided by two hundred, it'd be a million, and it'll be ten thousand if we divide it by two thousand. If we just divide it by two hundred million, it'll be just one! I think I'm having late symptoms. In reality, the sum of money can't be obtained even if the office workers in Japan work for a lifetime.

That is why, people would die for the money.

The phone in the office would ring every few hours, and Yondaime tightly closed the door of the study so that we won't hear him answering. They wouldn't have killed Meo's father because of impatience, would they? I tried not to think of the pain and terror of having fingers cut off one after another. I definitely can't let Meo see through me.

The last job of the day was to think of an 'explanation' for a hundred people.

There must be a reason for the money to flow.

I must do this.

I don't know if the plan would succeed. I whole-heartedly prayed that Kusakabe Masaya's miracle would still be present.




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