Kamisama no Memochou:Volume 3 Chapter 2
“Hayano? Hayano Tomohiko?”
As soon as she heard the name, the middle-aged female teacher, Hirabayashi-sensei’s face suddenly clouded over.
The day after we accepted Kousaka-senpai’s request, I went to the staff’s office after school with the excuse of wanting to borrow the keys to the greenhouse, and I asked her since she’s there. She was once the advisor of the Gardening Committee four years ago.
“Mnn, yes, of course I remember him.”
The teacher closed her class namelist and crossed her arms after placing the namelist on the table.
“He wasn’t so healthy, so he seldom came to the school. But I had no idea that time that he was treated like that in the committee. I was originally thankful that Sayuri-sensei could make them more obedient, really…… But why are you asking about this?”
“Eh? W- well…… Because I’m in the Gardening Club, and I heard about this from a senpai.”
I hurriedly made up a lie. Basically, there weren’t any senpais from the Gardening Club that I know of, but Hirabayashi-sensei didn’t get suspicious about that. It seems that I can’t ask on anymore. As I was about to leave the office after bowing to her, the voice of a male teacher came from the other side of the partition.
“Even so…… Though it isn’t really nice to say this, but it’s all thanks to that incident that those good-for-nothings drop out of school. So it’s not that bad.”
“Really, please don’t speak of these irresponsible things.”
“Didn’t Ichinomiya give you a lot of trouble? I won’t be surprised even if he’s arrested by the police.”
This particular name kept lingering beside my ears as though I’ve heard of it for quite a lot of times. When I recalled about it, I’ve already ran towards Hirabayashi-sensei’s desk.
“— Wh- what is it, Fujishima-kun?”
“I- Ichinomiya? Does that mean Ichinomiya Tetsuo-senpai?”
A middle-aged teacher with streaks of white hair among his otherwise black hair had a rather awkward expression on his face, it seems that he’s the one who spoke to Hirabayashi-sensei just now. Perhaps he thought that letting other people hear what he said just now isn’t that good, he tried to smooth things over.
“So you know him? Mnn, it seems that he’s rather well known. He was like a mad dog, lashing out first before anything else whenever he does anything. His grades were terrible as well, and I’ve heard that he’s a rogue up till now.”
Ichinomiya Tetsuo— Tetsu-senpai dropped out from my school for four years now. Was that really the reason that he dropped out.
“That’s right, Ichinomiya was one of the delinquents who treated Hayano as a gofer!” The middle-aged teacher answered agitatedly. I felt a cold chill gradually rising from my toes.
“It was said that he wasn’t caught because there were no evidence. Since he chose to drop out himself, it shows that he’s really in the wrong. That means Hayano was killed by these people.”
“Tetsu… senpai…… Bu—”
I nearly blurted something out in agitation, but immediately swallowed it back again. Hirabayashi-sensei and the other teacher looked rather shocked. I immediately turned around and left, escaping the staff’s office.
The person who killed Kaoruko-senpai’s brother was actually Tetsu-senpai?
He dropped out because of that? How could this be possible? This must be a lie!
I didn’t say anything to Ayaka or Sayuri-sensei, but immediately rushed out of the school, riding to Hanamaru Ramen on my bike.
Of course, Alice knew of this long ago.
“Four students dropped out of their own accord after the incident, all of them were students who had contact with Hayano Tomohiko; this is the namelist. The only person who was confirmed to have contact with the victim that day was the fourth person.”
Under the air outlet in the office, Alice spoke of that in a chillingly businesslike tone and handed me a photocopied paper. The names and classes of four guys were listed on the paper, while the fourth name was Ichinomiya Tetsuo. I stared at the name.
Though the words slipped out of my mouth, I didn’t really know what I wanted to say.
“I already phoned him to come.” Alice said: “I only knew of this today. Basically, us NEETs would not investigate the past of the others. Major, Hiro, and Yondaime might not know of this as well, but of course there’s a possibility that they just didn’t mention it.”
This really doesn’t matter. The main thing is, Tetsu-senpai actually bullied a sick student by asking him to be his gofer, and even caused him to die?
That’s impossible! I wanted to say that. Senpai isn’t that kind of person!
Even though Alice called my name, I couldn’t even stand up for a moment.
“Narumi! Why aren’t you moving? You can’t even make good soup even if you cringe like a clam, so why don’t you hurry up and get me a can of Dr. Pepper!?”
I slowly stood up, taking out a can from the fridge. When I opened the can, Alice extended her hands and said:
“…… Why? I don’t want to.”
“Stop fussing and drink it. This is an order from your superior!”
How can this count as an order from a superior? However, I couldn’t help but take a sip as I was glared by Alice with an icy gaze while I was in a stupor. It tasted even worse than the last time I drank this. This girl actually needs to drink three to four cans of this a day?
“How is it? Do you feel that your thoughts are getting clearer?”
Alice seemed rather displeased, drinking the leftover drink at the side of her table.
“Get another three cans over here.”
As though she was protesting to me, drinking three cans that were 1.4 liters in total, all in one go. Then, she continued:
“Then let me tell you something so your mind will be clearer. Do you know why I didn’t ask for payment from the client Kousaka Yukari?”
“How would I know……”
I nearly forgot before she mentioned that, but she indeed did not speak of anything about the investigation fee.
“Firstly, Kousaka Yukari does not have the ability to pay as she’s just a high school student. Secondly, isn’t this your request as well? Isn’t the fortress that is going to be taken away yours as well?”
“You’re right, but…...”
“Thirdly, you have the ability to pay. Didn’t I pay you your wages a few days ago?”
The investigation fee that Alice asked for at that moment was so expensive that it’s scary. So she asks for such a large fee each time! Or am I just clueless about the fees? Hiring a detective might be as expensive as this. But I did indeed get my pay a few days ago, so I can still pay the money.
“Don’t you wish to solve the mystery as well?”
“But even so, you don’t need to expose Tetsu-senpai’s……”
Exposing the truth of senpai’s crimes. Do we really need to do it till this extent?
“Narumi, I already told you many times. A detective is a messenger of the dead, so the things that I do might hurt the living, and might shame the deceased; the things that we gain in the end might only be a meaningless consolation, or just restoring someone’s reputation. But I must still—“
“Why can you still look as though nothing had happened!?”
I couldn’t help but interrupt with a harsh tone. As before, even I, myself, wasn’t sure who my anger was directed at, but I just felt that I was unable to continue to listen to Alice speak in that chilly, emotionless tone.
Just at that moment, I saw that the large eyes of the small NEET detective started to redden.
“I see! So I’m that cruel in your eyes, huh!? Thank you for telling me that!”
I really didn’t know how to answer.
That’s right, Alice had been friends with Tetsu-senpai long before I knew him.
How is it possible that she wouldn’t feel anything about this? That’s because, Alice had not mentioned even once from just now—
She didn’t mention Tetsu-senpai’s name.
“E- erm…… Alice, sorr—“
“Shut up, idiot!” Four cans flew in my direction. “I’m like that in your eyes anyways! I don’t care about that at all, so why would you need to apologize!?”
Sounds of metal rang around me. Alice stood straight on the bed, face flushed and trembling all over.
“Why don’t you clear things away already! The NEET detective who isn’t affected by anything is going to pierce holes in her companions’ past with her optical eyes that could even pierce through the truth!”
“There’s nothing that you can help with now. That point is the same as usual.”
Alice turned over to the monitor in a huff. I knelt on the cold floor, and had no other choice but to retract my arm that I extended towards Alice.
Isn’t it at these times— an assistant detective has to help from the side?
What in the world was I doing? Even if I vented my anger on Alice, it couldn’t help things.
Tetsu-senpai arrived shortly. The doorbell rang beside the bed. Alice flashed the blue light as a response, and the door opened immediately.
“So Narumi is here too?”
Tetsu-senpai was wearing a T-shirt as usual, and said after walking to the entrance of the bedroom, glancing at Alice and I.
“The only thing is the matter mentioned in the phone?”
Alice nodded silently. That’s unusual, this girl could actually express her opinions with her mouth closed.
“Is that so? Then…… I have nothing to say.”
Nothing to say?
“Aren’t you going to explain anything?”
“Explain what? Didn’t you investigate already?”
“Hayano Tomohiko, died because of a heart attack because of your inhumane actions— someone proved that. Does that mean you admit all of it?”
“I dropped out already, so isn’t that okay? I wouldn’t have continued to study even if that incident didn’t happen. I just left school two or three months earlier, it’s no big deal.”
I stood up to question senpai, and I might have rushed forward to argue with him long ago if not for Alice grabbing my wrist.
“Really? Then I would like to know the details of what happened.”
Those words were like a devastating punch that could shatter one’s chin, stopping Alice’s words in their track.
“There’s nothing else about this matter, so stop digging here and there for information.”
“Does that mean you don’t have any willingness for cooperation? Even for me?”
“Not only do I refuse to help out, if you dare to tell Narumi to poke around—“
Half though his words, Tetsu-senpai stuffed his hands into his pockets and glared at me ferociously. It felt as though my whole body was going to get flattened by his glare.
What is this? Is this person really Tetsu-senpai?
“I will unhesitatingly beat you up!”
The merciless words that Tetsu-senpai said rang in the room.
Is this person really Tetsu-senpai? The good-for-nothing gambler? The person who would smile to brush away small maters, but would give me a hand during critical moments?
He actually bullied a weak person and caused him to die?
Lies, those must be lies!
Crestfallen, I suddenly heard the sound of the door banged close. When I raised my head again, Tetsu-senpai had already disappeared.
I hurriedly rushed out to the corridors. But even though I flew down the stairs, I wasn’t in time. The atmosphere that was abnormally cold for May lingered at the gathering spot where everyone welcomed me warmly the place with large steel buckets, turned over beer crates and wooden stands.
I sat on the second step of the backstairs.
Raising my head slowly because of someone’s voice, I saw Ayaka poking her head out of the kitchen backdoor.
“Ah…… You’re here……” I don’t want to let Ayaka see my depressed expression, so I shifted my gaze.
“Fujishima-san, you said you’re going to get the keys, but didn’t come back at all…… So I figured you might be over here.”
“…… I’m sorry.”
Ah, I remembered. As I was startled by the contents of the teachers’ conversation, I rushed directly out of school.
“What happened? The person called Tetsu-san left looking incredibly furious.”
“……. Nah. Nothing ha—“
How is it possible that nothing happened? And this matter might not be completely irrelevant to Ayaka.
I, who was helplessly dumb, learnt one thing last winter and this spring, sulking at a corner alone is just a waste of time.
The reason that I want to save the Gardening Club is to regain the winter that I went through with Ayaka.
But I couldn’t just say that directly. What should I say first? I finally said after pondering for some time:
“…… Do you know about the Gardening Committee?”
Ayaka shook her head. She doesn’t know? Or was the memory just sunk in her swamp of memories?
Then let’s start from that incident.
There was a Gardening Committee managed by the school once…… It was abolished after that because of a death incident…… And Tetsu-senpai was involved in the incident…… Though the Gardening Committee was abolished, its jobs were fully accepted by the Student Council, and thus the Gardening Club was born.
The Gardening Club was the place where Ayaka and I gave each other support— and it is going to vanish.
As though she was listening to a movie summary that she was completely disinterested in, Ayaka just nodded in response from time to time. Each time I spoke a word, heat seemed to dissipate slightly from my body.
“Then you’re planning to—“ Ayaka bit her lips lightly. “Think of a way to save the Gardening Club?”
When I nodded in response, Ayaka’s expression looked rather forlorn.
“Because it’s a club…… that you managed with me in the past?”
Though Ayaka wasn’t wrong, why is she asking about that now?
“Did you argue with Tetsu-san just because of this just now?”
“What do you mean by ‘just because’? This would mean that we won’t have any place to stay at now……”
A place that was important to us, a place where our fate started. I really don’t know how to explain this.
I suddenly recalled the armband that I kept in my pocket all this time. Would it help Ayaka to regain some memories if I hand it to her? But on the other hand, I felt terrified if it would not have any effect on her after I gave that to her, since the armband is too closely linked to Ayaka and I.
As Ayaka was about to say something, we heard footsteps coming. A shadow extended to my feet. I raised my head, seeing two silhouettes at the end of the alley.
“Alice called me just now, and I talked to Tetsu on the phone just now as well.”
Hiro-san walked quickly to me and sat on a large steel bucket, while Major walked to my side and put down his backpack. After glancing at Ayaka, he looked at me again.
“This is great. I have something to tell you, Vice-Admiral Fujishima. Can you please tell Alice about this?”
“Tell…… about what?”
“Concerning this case, we shall not assist Alice.”
I stared at Major blankly. Will not assist?
Hiro-san continued: “If you want to investigate about Tetsu, we will not help out.” “Tetsu said that he didn’t want anyone to investigate about him, so we plan to respect his wishes.”
“Even if it’s Alice’s request?”
“That’s right. But since it’s rather hard to say to her…… Please tell her about this.”
“Is Tetsu-senpai more important that Alice?”
I only realized the stupidity of my question after saying it. Hiro-san just smiled faintly.
“That’s not the problem. Though we might lose a client because of this, it’s much better than losing a companion, that’s all.”
Companion. That’s right, this isn’t a relationship that could be described by the word ‘friend’. Even so—
“Why don’t you guys tell this to Alice yourself!?”
The cold words that slipped out of my mouth surprised even myself. Hiro-san’s expression froze, and Major who was beside me sighed:
“…… That’s true. So sorry for asking you to do this.”
As Major walked past me after taking his backpack again, the kitchen backdoor opened suddenly.
“P- please wait for a moment!”
Major looked at Ayaka who just rushed out in surprise. I might be wearing the same expression as well, as Ayaka looked at me with her brows furrowed.
“Fujishima-san, this is just too much! Because—“
Of course, I know that I said something that I shouldn’t have said to Major and Hiro-san. But why is Ayaka angry?
“Alice would be sad too if they spoke of this directly to her! She’s really just a child, why? Why are you so cruel to her!? Why don’t you just tell her!”
Does she really think that Alice is just a child? What are you interrupting for when you obviously don’t remember anything! I nearly retorted in anger, but the words that I wanted to say froze in my mouth.
I really would forget sometimes. Of course, Alice is just a child— maybe not just a child– but she’s still a delicate girl. Ayaka was right. How would that help anyone if Major or Hiro-san told Alice directly that they refuse to help out?
After saying all that, Ayaka retreated to the kitchen with her face pale.
“…… Ah …… Ah, so- sorry! Though I actually don’t know anything……”
I hurriedly stood up, biting my lips and grasping my thighs forcefully with my fingers.
“Sorry, it’s my fault. So sorry, Major.”
I couldn’t look him in the face, so I could only look at Major’s military boots with my head lowered.
“…… I’ll tell her.”
“Don’t be like that…… We’re the ones who feel sorry about this.”
Hiro-san answered with his head lowered as well: “Sorry, asking for you to do something that you shouldn’t.”
I thought to myself: What’s with this? No matter what serious incidents happened in the past, laughter could be heard in this alley.
“That’s right, it’s as you said, we chose Tetsu and not Alice this time.”
“Do you all trust Tetsu-senpai that much?”
Facing my inquiries, Major and Hiro exchanged glances.
“You mean— do we think Tetsu wouldn’t bully someone to death, is it?” Hiro-san asked in a questioning tone, while I nodded weakly in response.
“This doesn’t matter at all.”
Hiro-san’s short but strong answer caused me to raise my head in surprise.
“We are all NEETs, so we only care about the present. As for how Tetsu was in the past, it’s none of our business. I just believe that the Tetsu right now isn’t that kind of person.”
Hiro-san looked at Major.
“Even if Tetsu-san is running away right now because of a murder, I would hide him with all my effort as well. If Tetsu-san is planning to kill someone, I would stop him with all my effort right now. That’s why we’re kin.”
Then what would Alice be to these two?
But I think that’s a question that’s off-limits— I spoke, but the things that I said was other thoughts.
“…… Then, I choose Alice and not Tetsu-senpai.”
Not a friend, not a companion, it’s something that could not be said in words—
Alice is a detective, while I’m an assistant detective.
Hiro-san nodded in answer. Some sorrow showed on his face, like a lily that hasn’t bloomed.
“But that doesn’t mean that we’re going against her. Please tell Alice to just tell us directly if she wants us to investigate something other than Tetsu-san’s past.”
After saying that, Major immediately turned around and waved to me, walking away from the alley between the buildings with Hiro-san.
It can’t be said that I’m standing on Alice’s side, right? When the silhouettes of the two left, I suddenly thought— actually Alice is the one who’s helping me. If I withdraw my request, Alice would not need to continue to dig out the words of the deceased, and wouldn’t need to worry that she would hurt Tetsu-senpai.
I raised my head, and coincidentally met Ayaka’s uneasy gaze as she was tightly holding onto the kitchen backdoor.
To me, there’s something that I have to protect as well. Even if Ayaka had long forgotten how important those things are, even if it’s only a mirage that exists only in my heart.
From the following day onwards, I would ask Ayaka to work in my stead at Hanamaru Ramen when I’m busy with my work as an assistant detective.
“Ayaka is indeed ten thousand times more useful than you.”
That’s the same as Min-san originally thought. It seems that my chances of unemployment increased again, but it doesn’t matter.
“If Min-san doesn’t mind using me……”
Though Ayaka was rather hesitant, she still accepted my request.
Ayaka seemed to look forward to meeting Alice and Min-san as well. She might really recall Hanamaru Ramen if she keeps working there. I simply finished the work for the Gardening Club, thinking of this while looking as Ayaka left.
But there are many things that would eventually disappear if you just leave it there, so I can’t stop.
That day, I went to the Student Council Inspection office.
“Fujishima-kun? Have you found out about anything?”
Kousaka-senpai stayed alone in the dark, deserted Inspection office, and small books of past meeting minutes were piled on the table, while the monitor of an old model word processor was blinking piteously. Hustle and bustle from the office separated by bookshelves could be heard, which was in sharp contrast with the deserted feeling here.
“…… Is there only a person in the Inspection?”
“Not really. There’s actually five people, but the rest of them aren’t really interested in the job except for me.”
That’s why Kaoruko-senpai would do as she like.
“That’s right, didn’t you say that a senpai from the Inspection is in Hirasaka-gumi? Ah, Hirasaka-gumi would be the black T-shirt gang.”
“Eh? Ah, mnn. He’s Miyabe-senpai.”
“That person should know more about the things when the Gardening Committee is still around, right?”
Senpai nodded in response. I asked Kousaka-senpai to introduce me to Miyabe-senpai, but since the case is quite troublesome, it would probably be hard to tell him clearly about what occurred even if I suddenly went to meet him.
After I thanked her and was about to leave the Inspection office, Kousaka-senpai halted me.
“What is it?” I turned over and asked.
Senpai sat before the word processor and kept rubbing her hands.
“Sorry for asking you to investigate such a strange case. I’ve brought you quite some trouble for my children’s sake.”
“M- my children?”
“Ah, well…..” Kousaka-senpai used her hand to repeatedly fan her flushed cheeks. “Sorry, that wasn’t deliberate. There are some small cultural clubs that are facing abolishment, and many of them were founded when I was in first year, and I was in charge of inspecting them, so they feel like my own children.”
Ah, so that’s how things are. This person is the type that would swallow up the sorrowful things, shouldering them alone as well.
“Many people misunderstand that the Inspection exists just to abolish clubs.”
I nonchalantly shifted my gaze. Actually I thought so as well.
“In reality, we’re indeed in charge of the follow-up work after the abolishment of a club, so some senpais had said that our job is to abolish clubs in the past. But the truth isn’t like that…… The Management has a lot of power, so I think that protecting the small clubs that can’t protest is also the Inspection’s job.”
I couldn’t look Kousaka-senpai in the eye.
“So this was actually something that I had to solve myself. I’m sorry.”
I shook my head hurriedly.
“I didn’t help just because I accepted the request. I’d be troubled if the Gardening Club disappears as well. Senpai, please don’t worry too much about this. Alice accepted the request for me as well. She’s afraid that misfortune would land on a place where she doesn’t know.”
“The girl called Alice—“
Kousaka-senpai hesitated, looking up with her brows furrowed.
“— is a rather unusual girl, right?”
It felt as though she pondered some time for a suitable word to describe her, but it seems that she couldn’t find one. It’s actually more or less like that.
“How old is she? About eleven or twelve? Why is she nesting in a place like that to be a detective? Is she really a hikikomori NEET? What are her parents doing right now?”
“Ah…… Erm…... Well……”
So senpai didn’t ask Alice these questions the first time she saw her because she planned to ask me after that? Unfortunately, I don’t have answers for any of her questions.
“About these matters, I don’t know even one.”
Kousaka-san raised both her hands in a ‘banzai’ pose in surprise. That’s rather similar to Ayaka.
“You don’t know that? H…… How is that possible? It seemed that you were quite close to her, isn’t it strange that you don’t know about that?”
Is it really that strange? But when she said that, it really felt rather strange. Seemed that we were quite close? Having other people see us like that, it feels somewhat complicated. And actually I wasn’t helping to take care of her just because I like it……
“Then why are you continuing to do that for her? Helping a girl to comb her hair too…..”
“Mnn— well…… Because I’m an assistant detective?”
Whoops, I’m starting to feel that something is off as well, why must an assistant detective comb the hair of his boss!?
“Instead of saying that you’re her assistant, aren’t you more like her family?”
I couldn’t defend myself against Kousaka-senpai’s questions, and I might have said some strange things if the door behind me didn’t open suddenly.
A hint of tension suddenly appeared on Kousaka-senpai’s face. After turning my head around, I realized that Kaoruko-senpai was standing outside the door.
“What are you doing? Do you still have anything to do with the Inspection?”
I lowered my head, not answering Kaoruko-senpai’s question. I wanted to walk out of the office directly, but then a voice came from my back.
“Fujishima-kun, please wait for a moment. Kaoruko-chan, please listen to m—“
Kaoruko-senpai looked at Kousaka-senpai the same time as myself. Kousaka-senpai covered the word processor, saying in a sincere tone:
“Actually, I’m asking Fujishima-kun to investigate…… the incident about your brother.”
Kaoruko-senpai who was standing beside me widened her eyes.
“Why…… are you doing such a thing?”
“Because the Gardening Club was founded after that incident happened, and the budget was decided that time, so the two must be related somehow—“
“There’s absolutely no need for investigation!”
Kaoruko-senpai’s fingers were deeply clenched on her crossed arms, and she said while shaking her head.
“Don’t do these pointless things, okay?”
“It isn’t something pointless!”
Kousaka-senpai walked over one step after another, and I saw that there was a danger of tears spilling from her eyes.
“Kaoruko-chan, didn’t you find out a lot about this from the police that time? If it’s possible, please tell Fujishima-kun—“
Kaoruko-senpai suddenly grabbed the collar of my uniform, dragging me out to the corridor.
“Don’t meddle in meaningless things anymore! The meeting is on the twenty fifth, please tidy up the Gardening Club before then!”
Kaoruko-senpai forcefully pushed me out of the door, locking the door to the Inspection office with a bang, so that my view would be blocked. The sounds of vigorous dispute came from the other side of the door.
I retreated to the windows, silently waiting for the pain because of Kaoruko-senpai’s forceful push to fade. Now I understand, is this what they call the messenger for the dead? Being hated no matter you’re in or out of a grave. How many times had Alice repeated this, and how many times had she been scolded?
I think Kaoruko-senpai would definitely refuse to speak to me about her brother. Though it might help the case if I could hear something, the wound that was left because of the leaving of someone precious might not close up. I understand this the most, because even though that person is back, my pain has not faded even now.
The meeting of the Student Council is scheduled on the twenty fifth of this month, and the place where Ayaka and I supported each other is going to be closed down after about two weeks. I really can’t bear to stop at this time.
Right after I walked out of the school entrance, the ringtone of ‘Colorado Bulldog’ rang. I supported my bike by the school door, taking out my phone.
‘Narumi? Don’t come here today first, go to—‘
“Yeah, I’m going to Hirasaka-gumi right now.”
Alice was speechless for a moment, how unusual.
‘…… Your recent diligence is rather disgusting, what happened? Maybe you’re afraid that not only your job at the ramen shop, but even your job as an assistant detective would be taken by Ayaka?’
Why did you say that I’m disgusting……!
“You said that this case is my own case yourself, right?”
‘That isn’t wrong. I feel rather happy about this. Okay, relax. Though Ayaka is a hundred million times more considerate about small details than you, she doesn’t have the talent to do a manzai, so she can’t have the job of an assistant.’
“So an assistant’s job is to do tsukkomis with the boss……?”
‘Don’t you think so?’
No, I should’ve known that earlier, right?
‘I investigated the personal information of those four dropouts in detail, and there’s quite a lot, so I sent them directly to the inbox at Hirasaka-gumi.’
“…… Tetsu-senpai is among them?”
“Can I really read them? Those are all senpai’s privacy……”
‘Hearing you say that, does that mean you can just read information other than Tetsu?’
“Ehh…… Ahh…… Not really……”
Those are indeed his privacy. To be honest, I’ve seen the personal information of total strangers being exposed by Alice’s side, it’s just that the one that’s exposed is coincidentally Tetsu-senpai this time. Realizing about this at this time is really already too late.
‘As long as you have the confidence that you could still hang out and laugh together with everyone, including Tetsu, after the case has finished, then just read it.’
When the case has finished—
Can the days of the past still return?
“…… Alice, do you have that confidence?”
‘Of course. If not, I wouldn’t be able to be a NEET detective. Knowing would indicate death, every file that I found out through a search engine are my bones.’
I somewhat regret discussing this topic with Alice on the phone, since I can’t see her expression. Are those her usual banter, or did she just conceal her immense sadness with her flowery words?
Now— which is it?
“I’m really okay. Only I—“
I switched the phone to my other hand, sighed and continued:
“— won’t leave, and wouldn’t hate you if I know the cruel truth. I will always be by your side.”
All of a sudden, only the sounds of the cooling fans in the computers could be heard on the receiver.
Eh? That’s odd. Did I say something that I shouldn’t? I thought that Alice was feeling downcast because her NEET companions kept their distance from her as she was determined to continue the investigation, which was why I wanted to use my own way to comfort her.
I finally heard Alice’s unusually high-pitched voice.
‘What are you blabbering about all of a sudden!?’
Since her voice was rather piercing, I couldn’t help but distance the receiver from my ears a bit.
‘Why can’t you get this clear? Wh- what about me? What are you talking about? Staying by my side is a given, you’re my assistant!’
“Erm…… Sorry. But why are you so flustered?”
‘I’m not flustered! Don’t just stand there speaking nonsense, hurry up and go to the office! If you’re slower, the machine idiots team would break the computer, eating my email like black goats!’
The phone was hung up harshly. I stared at the silent phone for awhile, turning it around in my palm. What’s with that girl?
Troubled, I tilted my head while stuffing my phone back into my pockets, riding my bike away.
The road extended from the large station like a vein, after climbing the slope that was connected to a TV station at the leftmost spot and turning left into a small alley, a broken down building could be seen. The third and fourth floor of the building would be the office of Hirasaka-gumi.
As the sworn brother that underwent the sake ceremony with their leader Yondaime, I had some understanding about how the young yakuza gang was founded.
Yondaime left his home at Kansai, arriving at Tokyo for quite some time now, and he once got along with a man similar to his age way before he knew Tetsu-senpai and Hiro-san. They were the most powerful ones in the city at that time— some higher leveled lackeys in Hirasaka-gumi told me excitedly, an embarrassing title called the ‘Four Heavenly Kings’ was once spread among the hot-blooded delinquents. One of the two remaining ones is Tetsu-senpai, while the last— and the strongest one of them, seemed to be the shop owner of a ramen shop somewhere, but I might be mistaken about that. Why does these people like to have the strongest titles, names and things like that?
Anyways, Yondaime and his pal gathered the good-for-nothings in the whole city in a flash. Yondaime’s family had a business, though it doesn’t seem so by his appearance, he’s actually a person with constructive thoughts; and he uses violence to guide others as well. He’s very clear about this: As long as you give a set amount of people a direction, it might have an economical effect.
Just like that, a gang that gathers juvenile delinquents was born. Constantly gathering NEETs who were expelled from school, roaming the street, the gang grew and now became a force that even real yakuza gangs have to note— that’s what they said.
The other man who once set the base for the gang, who was also Yondaime’s inseparable friend— disappeared not long after that. The reason for that wasn’t clear, and only his name was left on the signboard of the gang.
The nameplate on the letterbox of the first floor had ‘Hirasaka’ written on it. I closely observed Hirasaka-gumi’s emblem that was exactly the same as the family emblem of the prestigious family during the olden times of Japan, ‘Heishi’, which was a swallowtail butterfly as well…… The reason that I’m thinking about these is just because the elevator still hadn’t come down. Did it break down again?
It really can’t be helped, I think it’s better if I just use the emergency stairs. As I was about to walk out, I met a man in a black T-shirt on the streets.
“Oh? Is there anything— oh, isn’t that the uniform of M High?”
His hair was like a porcupine, and was bleached in an exaggerated way, quite an unusual type in Hirasaka-gumi.
“Ah? Would you be Fujishima?”
After he suddenly said that, I nodded in surprise.
“Ahhh, mnn, Yukari-chan called me before this. And then Sou-san suddenly called me over, I wondered what was wrong.”
Yukari-chan— does that mean Kousaka-senpai? Which means……
“Erm…… Are you Miyabe-senpai who was once in the Inspection?”
Kousaka-senpai said before this that though he was once in the Student Council, he became a NEET because he failed to get in a college. I couldn’t imagine how he looks like, so he looks like this?
“Yes yes yes! Wow, you’re actually a second year in our school. You could even address Sou-san as a brother, that’s amazing!”
While climbing the stairs, I heard Miyabe-senpai speak. It seems that he just joined the gang, and his understanding of myself is only from rumors. That’s why Kousaka-senpai heard those untruths.
“Yukari-chan…… how is she in the Inspection? Did Hayano bully her? Before I graduated, she almost threw all of the work in Inspection to Yukari-chan, she isn’t still shouldering all the responsibilities herself, is she?”
“W- well…… She seems okay……”
Since Miyabe-senpai’s predictions were all spot on, that pained me a bit.
“Is that so? That’s fine. That girl is the type that would worry about the others even though she, herself, could not go on, and finally cause herself to be unable to move.”
The situation right now is just at senpai said.
“So you’re investigating the Gardening Committee, right? That girl is really has a life of hard work.”
I was rather uneasy about Miyabe-senpai’s casual attitude. After climbing to the fourth floor, I walked into the rather eerie room.
“Good morning, everyone!” Senpai casually said.
There were about five or six black-shirted men in the office. A table was in the center of the room, while the two sofas that were placed opposite to each other were full of people. There are always so much people waiting here every time I’m here. Is it because this is their job or they’re just too free?
Though I saw Pole (Two meters tall) who was Yondaime’s bodyguard, the main point is their boss isn’t at the desk at the innermost of the room.
“Oh, aniki, thanks for your hard work!”
“Thanks for your hard work!”
Completely ignoring Miyabe-senpai’s greetings, they stood up and bowed to me. Can you stop doing that? Doing that every time…… Miyabe-senpai showed a rather startled expression, and he looked as though the stock that he was carrying suddenly turned into a venomous snake.
I didn’t know what to say, so I could only shift my gaze from Miyabe-senpai to Pole.
“Is Yondaime here today?”
“Sou-san is out right now.”
“Ah, that’s right, aniki, the computer kept beeping just now, so I used the way that you taught me, hammering the power switch sixteen times, telling it to shut up!”
I didn’t tell you that! I told you not to touch the power switch when the computer is running! That was probably the email that Alice sent here, are the contents still complete……?
I was invited into the study beside the desk.
The room was used as a restroom and a store, so it was full of dust; it feels as though the cardboard boxes increase every time I come here. I felt like tidying up this place for them, but I’m not a member of the gang after all.
Hirasaka-gumi’s computer was placed on a small table by a bed. Good thing Alice’s email was still alright. I hurriedly printed out the files attached to the email. Apart from Tetsu-senpai’s information, I browsed through the other contents. Not even one of them still lived at their old home, so there’s no address to check out. Alice added on the information that she asked Yondaime to help with the investigation as well.
“Ohh, aniki, who are these people on the list? The people that we’re going to beat up next?”
“Uwaa! Please don’t look at the contents!”
I hastily snatched the information from Pole’s hands.
“……. So- sorry!”
Pole’s huge body seemed to shrink in depression. After updating the softwares that hadn’t been updated, I checked the other mails as well.
“Fujishima, so you’re the one handling our computer?” Miyabe-senpai looked at me from behind.
“Oi, Miyabe! Don’t call aniki’s name directly!” “Aniki is Sou-san’s brother, you know!”
“Eh? Ah, right…… Sorry.”
“E- erm…… It’s fine, really, so don’t mind about it.”
Actually I want to listen to Miyabe-senpai’s explanation earlier, but Pole stayed in the study for some reason, so I couldn’t really say anything.
“I heard you’re about two years younger than Tetsu-senpai?”
“That’s right, so I’m probably four years older than you, Fujishima.”
“Oi, Miyabe! Didn’t I tell you not to answer as you like? Aniki, sorry for this, it’s all our fault.”
Pole, can you stop interrupting already?
“That incident probably happened in winter, right?”
“It’s in December…… Ah, it happened in December, about four years ago.” Miyabe-senpai said politely to Pole.
“Aniki, he said that it’s in December four years ago.” Pole repeated to me.
“Are you in school when the incident happened, Miyabe-senpai? I’ve heard that it happened on about five after school.”
“No, I went home already.” Senpai said to Pole again.
Pole: “He said that he went home already, aniki.”
“Then…… that means, you don’t know anything about the incident, right?”
“I’ve heard of it from other people, so I know a bit about it.”
“He said that he knows a bit, aniki.”
Please! Pole, can you please shut up already?
Being troubled by a mystifying honorifics attack, I still managed to get some information, the incident would be…… on a snowy Wednesday before the winter break, about half past five in the afternoon. Hayano Tomohiko was found collapsed beside a wall not far from the right part of M High School’s entrance, and there were signs of blood around it. Though the victim was immediately sent to the hospital for treatment, he still died that night because of a sudden heart failure.
The ones who found out that something was wrong were some delinquents who often gathered at the Gardening Committee, and one of them was Ichinomiya Tetsuo who was not in the Gardening Committee. According to their testimonies, they were led by Ichinomiya Tetsuo who was the first person who found the victim, forcing the sick Hayano Tomohiko to jog somewhere to buy something with his upper body bare, using the excuse of ‘training his body’ to repeatedly bully the victim in many ways.
When Miyabe-senpai said till this part, Pole grabbed senpai’s collar even faster than me.
“How would Tetsu-ojiki do such a thing!?”
The tip of Miyabe-senpai’s feet were raised about two centimeters from the floor. Seeing senpai suffocating because of his neck being throttled, legs flailing non-stop, I hurriedly went forward to halt him.
“P- please don’t do that!”
Pole tutted in annoyance while unwillingly throwing Miyabe-senpai onto the bed.
“Bu- but…… Tetsu-senpai said that himself……”
Miyabe-senpai explained while coughing.
That’s right. I sank into despair, sitting down on the chair once again. Tetsu-senpai admitted it himself……
But then— why doesn’t he want anyone to investigate?
“However, he didn’t get arrested by the police.”
Even the police couldn’t prove that he did anything. Even so, the students that were rumored to mistreat other students dropped out of school; while the Gardening Committee faced abolishment.
If there’s any other secret that Tetsu-senpai doesn’t want people to know of, that would probably be—
Perhaps he did really commit a crime? How is that possible? Or maybe he didn’t die due to mistreatment, but some other reason caused Hayano Tomohiko to die, and he did that just to hide the truth?
I covered my mouth with my hand, swallowing the terrible imagination. It’s useless even if I imagine these kind of things now. Additionally, there are some suspicious that we have to clear up right now.
I thought of something to chase Pole out of the study, then started to ask again.
“And then…… the Gardening Club was founded for some reason, right?”
Miyabe-senpai nodded while answering:
“I was still a rookie Inspector that time, so I wasn’t clear how the Management dealt with the matter. However, the money that was originally given by the school then given by the Student Council, and a new club that completely inherits the jobs of the Gardening Committee was founded. I think that affected the budgets of the other clubs more or less, so there’s probably some effect that time. The one who talked things out with the people in the staffroom would probably be a superior in the Student Council, right?”
“Is this even possible?”
“They’ve succeeded. That couldn’t be helped. I asked my senpais in the Inspection about the same question as well. It’s actually just that the teachers want to have an explanation for the outsiders, and it would be even trickier to clear away the flowerbeds or the greenhouse. So if there’s a request from the Student Council, saying that they want to open a new club to handle the job, they can’t say no. Since the students who caused the trouble left school after all.”
No matter what, this was probably done by an extremely motivated leader in the Student Council.
“…… By the way, might it be done by the leader of the Inspection?”
I think I’m asking too much.
“Ah— that’s possible as well, it seemed like he was rather friendly with the delinquents in the Gardening Committee. I heard that he was one of the pioneer members when the Gardening Club was first founded. I remember that he liked to trouble the teachers…… But he left school in the end. I wonder what’s he doing right now…… It doesn’t seem that he went to college or something.”
The pioneer members of the Gardening Club?
That would mean— it’s almost confirmed that this guy did it?
“T- that person is?”
“Eh? Ahh, hmm…… I think it’s Minagawa-san…… His full name is probably Minagawa Kengo. But I’m not sure of how to contact him.”
“Ahh, that’s okay. I just need the name.” I’ll leave the rest to Alice.
I rushed out of the office after thanking senpai, and coincidentally met Yondaime who was walking upstairs. A bodyguard that looked somewhat like a wall was standing behind him— Rocky.
“Aniki, thanks for your hard work!”
“You’re done with Miyabe already?”
“Ah, y- yes! Thank you very much.”
“It seems like you’re running here and there recently.”
“As a NEET, aniki is unusually serious.” Rocky added. I’m telling you that I’m not a NEET……
“Well, I didn’t really do anything notable actually.”
“I know that, I wasn’t praising you, and what you do is usually in vain, isn’t that right? Running here and there enthusiastically, and getting satisfied because of this. A classic idiot who likes to waste his time.”
I felt rather annoyed because of his words, but I couldn’t refute him since what he said is the truth.
“Miyabe wasn’t present at that time anyways, why are you here just to listen to him? Why don’t you just go and ask Tetsu?”
“But, if then—“
Why is he saying such things? Yondaime knows this, Tetsu-senpai said that he wouldn’t say anything.
“Those are Tetsu’s own thoughts, right? What does that have to do with you? If there’s a need—“
Yondaime stepped closer to me, pressing a finger forcefully on my chest. It felt just like a sharp ice pillar.
“— you should ask him even if you have to punch him for it.”
I couldn’t answer him. The reason that Yondaime could say such a thing is because he’s as strong as Tetsu-senpai. But I don’t have that strength.
“Who says that you have to win against him in a fight? I said that you just have to give him a punch.”
“…… Is there a difference?”
“If you can’t tell the difference, that means you’re an idiot. Just run around like an idiot then!”
“I think it’s better if I stay like that. Erm…… Can you locate the other dropouts other than Tetsu-senpai? Almost all of them left their home now, so we don’t know where they are. The namelist is in the computer.”
“So sorry for troubling you.”
As I was about to walk down the stairs:
“Oi, Gardening Club kid! Wait a sec.”
After pushing Rocky into the office, he threw something to me, and I only realized that it was a triangular cloth when I caught hold of it. I forgot when, but there was some embroidery similar to the ones on Ayaka’s. I was confused, looking at the cloth that was probably sewn by Yondaime himself, and looked at him again.
“That’s for you, remember to tie it on your head. That would cure your idiot sickness.”
“Thank you so much for that!”
Did he really spend the night finishing that so that he could make fun of me? I’m so touched because of this…
It was almost time for the ramen shop to open by the time I arrived. Min-san’s silhouette could be seen at the other side of the half-open iron sliding door. She was wiping the counters with her ponytail swaying around.
“Oh, just at the right time. Ayaka is probably still at Alice’s, so go and tell her that it’s almost time to open the shop. The customers are increasing recently, so it’s rather tiring doing this alone!”
Min-san said that, not even glancing at me.
“Oka—“ Eh? Wait a minute! “Erm…… Aren’t I supposed to be an employee as well?”
“Huh? Who are you? Our shop never employed a male employee before this.”
I nearly wept. Though I know that it’s reasonable if I’m fired because of my recent performance……
“You seem very busy as well! If Ayaka returns, wouldn’t that help you as well?”
“T- that’s right……”
“So you’re fired. Thanks for your hard work!”
“Can’t you say this any other way!?”
“Keep out of my territory.”
“That’s even crueler!”
I climbed up the backstairs while being laughed at by Min-san. When I entered the NEET Detective Agency, Ayaka and Alice were sitting on the bed. Seeing Alice sitting obediently on Ayaka’s thigh, being combed, a nostalgic feeling surged from the depths of my heart.
Thanks to Alice and Min-san, Ayaka can come here by herself now.
Then, I hope the school and the Gardening Club can restore her memories of me.
“Min-san asked me to tell you that it’s about time to open the shop.”
“Ah, right, sorry. It’s going to be done soon.”
Ayaka gently combed Alice’s silky hair, conditioners and what nots spread on the bed.
“It’s all Ayaka’s fault, making me bathe every two days. It’s really troublesome.”
Alice said while pouting.
“Alice, you should take care of your skin and your hair since they’re so beautiful.”
“Even if I take care of them, who would feel happy because of this?”
“Everyone would feel happy. Right, Fujishima-san?”
“Eh? Huh? Ah, yeah!”
Can you not suddenly focus on me?
“Narumi, don’t just stand there and discuss meaningless topics. Dr. Pepper and the report! Hurry up!”
Okay, okay. I took out a can from the fridge, handing the note with the news by Miyabe-senpai to Alice. There are still some things that I couldn’t understand just by looking at the information. Though I had wanted to tidy up the contents first, in the end I still chose to tell Alice about all of it first.
“…… Mnn, I get it.”
Alice handed the note back to me after listening to my explanation.
“Don’t you need it?”
“Isn’t Tetsu’s personal information printed on the other side of the paper? Remember not to use these things to jot things down after this.”
“So you still didn’t look at the contents?”
I still felt that I couldn’t look at Tetsu-senpai’s privacy.
“That doesn’t really matter. Though it’s true that you could see what I missed sometimes, but from the meaning of words, those are physical visual assets. In the sea of knowledge and information, you are only a dumb fish that couldn’t even see your own tail.”
“You said that the Head Inspector might be involved in this…… right?”
When I nodded in response, Alice furrowed her brows.
“I recall that I’ve seen the name of the Head Inspector before this.”
Alice remembers this person? Would that be because Tetsu-senpai told her that? As Ayaka was still combing Alice’s hair, Alice pulled the moveable table by her computer desk to her side, then typed on the computer to bring out a the window of a search engine on one of her monitors. Sounds of typing that were like machine guns rang in the room.
“According to the student handbook of your school, opening a new club must pass the Inspector’s trials. As for the rude and puzzling process of the opening of the Gardening Club, the involvement of the Head Inspector is quite probable. It’s like he’s looking at a club that he’s already decided to open. If this happens nowadays, it would be a huge joke.”
“Rude and puzzling?”
Ayaka who was behind Alice stopped combing, and her face fell. Though she didn’t really understand what we were discussing about, Ayaka was rather sensitive about the words Gardening Club that kept appearing in the conversation, so she couldn’t just ignore it.
“The club that you and Narumi are in is shrouded in mysteries.” Alice used the back of her head to lightly bump Ayaka’s chest while saying: “Do you remember a third year senpai when you first joined the Gardening Club in first year? Did you hear anything from him? There must be some students who joined the club at the same time as the Head Inspector, right?”
Being asked a whole lot of questions, Ayaka looked at Alice and shook her head after closing her eyes looking rather forlorn. Even if she heard anything— she probably doesn’t remember it.
“Is that so? That’s fine.” Alice continued to pound on the keyboard, wearing an unconcerned expression on her face. “No matter what, the first party should understand that the most, so it’s impossible that it’s not connected.”
“Does that mean he might know about Tetsu-senpai as well? We can ask him as long as we find him……”
“Basically, it’s like tha— ahhh, no……”
The sounds of typing suddenly halted.
Alice stared weakly at the computer screen.
“…… Is there anything wrong?”
“It seems that we’re too late, we can’t question Minagawa Kengo about this now.”
I approached the back of the bed, looking at the monitor that Alice was staring at. Quite a few windows were on the screen, and one of them had a photo of a man with small eyes, a square jaw, and a pale face that was about twenty, and the information about him.
“He’s dead. What a joke.”
Alice’s words hammered Ayaka’s head.
Among the words in one of the windows, two words were so clear to me as though they popped out of the screen. Choked breathing surged from the depths of my throat.
The red wings of angels that fragmented our winter, the crazily strong drug.
Why? Why? Why is this name here?
Since the group that made and dealt the drugs was closed down, the number of people who died because of the drug shot up. Apparently, they hurt themselves because of the withdrawal of the drug. There were already thirty people in this city alone. Their names weren’t in God’s notebook, so the sorrowful people attempted to add it in with their own blood. Most of those people did not continue their studies or work, drifting meaninglessly in the night city— NEETs.
Minagawa Kengo’s name was among them.
“Ayaka, ouch! It hurts!”
Alice suddenly shouted. I turned around, seeing the pale Ayaka with her eyes glued to the screen, tightly hugging Alice until the back of her hands turned white.
“Ah, no, no……. Noooo…….!”
A terrifying sound was emitted from Ayaka’s half-open mouth, her eyes that had lost their radiance were staring at the words ‘Angel Fix’ that caught my attention just now. I pounced on Ayaka, shaking her shoulders frantically, trying to pull her away from Alice.
“Ayaka, calm down! Please calm down!”
A piteous scream echoed through the cold room. Ayaka buried her face in Alice’s hair, her back convulsing repeatedly. Her force was so big that I could almost hear the sounds of Alice’s bones fracturing. I tried to stick my arm between them both, but was violently pushed down the bed.
“No! N- no! D- don’t come here! NO! Ah…… Ahh……!”
Ayaka finally let go of Alice, but she was curled up on the bed, starting to scratch the bed sheets and her own arms. Alice coughed while saying:
“Narumi, wrap her in the carpet so that her hands can’t move!”
Being frozen, I sprang up and forcibly wrapped Ayaka’s hands with the carpet.
“Master, sorry, but it’s an emergency. Can you come up here immediately?”
I heard Alice’s hoarse voice on the phone, looking at Ayaka whose lips were trembling non-stop, color drained from her face. It was like the bruises that were like the battle attire of native people that appeared last winter morning surfaced below her eyes again— the reddish black bags under her eyes. My back trembled as though it was about to break, but those were actually hallucinations. Opening my eyes after closing them for awhile, I saw that Ayaka’s face was just pale. She widened her eyes while looking at me. Perhaps she had a hallucination, seeing me after taking the Angel Fix, the chilling markings—I saw that her gaze froze because of terror.
I don’t even know who to curse now.
Ayaka still retained some memories. Nothing disappeared, it’s just that the thread that tied it was cut, and it was buried deeply in the swamp of memories.
But they’ve linked now in this way.
I caught hold of Ayaka’s hands forcibly on the carpet. If I didn’t do that, I’m afraid that I would have problems as well. I couldn’t even differentiate whether the moans that resounded in the room were mine or Ayaka’s. Standing below the air vent of the air conditioner, I waited while biting my lips forcefully.
Suddenly, I felt someone beside me. If not because of the stream of heat, I might have hugged my own head, collapsing on the bed with my eyes closed.
After raising my head, I saw Alice standing by my side, tightly holding the sleeve of my shirt, gazing at Ayaka’s face with her eyes that were as dark as the deep sea.
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