Kamisama no Memochou:Volume 3 Chapter 5
The eldest son of a carpenter. Because of his father’s acts of violence, he accepted the protection of the Social Welfare Committee a few times before he even graduated from primary school.
His father vanished when he was only twelve, and his family owed loan sharks a debt of over four million yen that time. His mother was hospitalized because of a mental breakdown, and thus Ichinomiya Tetsuo was moved to his mother’s elder brother’s house. However, he did not get along with his relatives who took him in, became a delinquent student in middle school, and once accepted counseling over twenty times.
During his second year in middle school, the police officers in the Youth Criminal Bureau introduced him to boxing. The head of the boxing alley realized his natural talent, and thus he left his uncle’s house to stay at the head’s house. From that day on, Ichinomiya Tetsuo turned over a new leaf, successfully furthering his studies by entering M High.
”The part that I want you to read is the next one. And there’s a medical report enclosed as well.”
Alice said while sitting on her bed.
After I returned from school, Alice called me to the detective agency, and she ordered me to closely read through Tetsu-senpai’s personal information that I did not read before this.
I held the stack of information while leaning against the fridge, and couldn’t help but gasp when I read the information written on the next page.
”Do you understand why I forced you to read this now?”
My eyes were completely glued to the paper, and I nodded while reading it.
Indeed, there is a reason for her request. If so, Tetsu-senpai—
”To your actions that could only be explained as imbecilic no matter which angle you look at, it should help more or less, right?”
”Well…… That’s not wrong, but……”
Do I really have to use this? Or should I say I have no other choice but to use this? Even so, it’s undeniable that to a person as weak as me, I’ll have to do things by hook or by crook.
Alice kneeled, saying in a frustrated tone:
”Didn’t you mean this when you said that you wanted to confirm the truth about Tetsu?”
I blankly stared at the NEET detective’s face for awhile, then shifted my gaze to the papers in my hands and nodded. Now I see, things are indeed so.
”Of course, wanting to use that could only be said as empty talk. It’s the same no matter how good your observation power is. And that means, even after I used this software that I pilfered from a certain research centre to analyze Tetsu’s fighting actions, that was the conclusion formed. This stack and that stack are sets of advice that I obtained from a boxing expert I got to know from the internet, while this is an emergency first aid manual, this stack contains ways of begging for mercy in sixty five languages, and here’s a set of references of reasons for running away at the last second.”
I was still clueless about the situation, but Alice still placed stack after stack of thick information onto my leg.
”These might still be insufficient, so please do some thorough research, and look for a way for you to go survive the battle!”
”Errr…… I’m really grateful for you being so worried about me…...”
”Didn’t I tell you quite a few times now? I’m not worried about you!”
Alice was so furious that she almost rushed over from the bed to bite me.
”Even if you’re beaten black and blue by Tetsu, the detective’s investigation and the client’s life still continues, and there’s still a lot of matters for you to investigate!”
”Ahhhh, mnn, sorry……”
I stood up after putting down the stacks of information. The face of Alice, who was kneeling on the bed, was about in front of my chest.
”I promise you.” I placed my hands on Alice’s shoulders. “I will not die for no reason at all.”
”W- what nonsense are you spouting!”
Alice pushed my hands away, huffily turning to the monitor.
The ways of begging for mercy probably isn’t much use, but the analysis of Tetsu-senpai’s movements should help more or less. But since they were very complicated information, I might not be able to understand it.
”Cleaning up the mess that your moronic actions brought about ends here. Don’t forget your own job.”
”What else do we have to investigate?”
”Some matters about the crime scene. Go take some photos at the greenhouse.”
”Again? Why? Didn’t we take some in the Angel Fix incident?”
And what’s with the crime scene?
”This time, please check out the floorboards and the walls thoroughly as well. There shouldn’t be any flowerpots on the ground currently, isn’t that right? I want to look for blood stains.”
”Blood stains? Whose?”
”Of course it’s Hayano Tomohiko’s.”
My mind sank into confusion, so I could only lean against the wall at the entrance of the bedroom while pondering Alice’s words.
”…… Does that mean Hayano Tomohiko fainted at the greenhouse?”
”That’s right. There aren’t any blood stains at the place by the school entrance where he collapsed at, isn’t that right? That indicates that the place that he fainted at wasn’t there, but another place.”
”That…… Isn’t wrong, but……”
Another place? In the greenhouse?
”But that doesn’t seem right as well. Tetsu-senpai and the others should have asked Hayano Tomohiko to be their errand boy, buying things for them, while they stayed in the greenhouse to wait.”
”Have you even forgotten what you, yourself, had said? Tetsu is definitely hiding something, you said that yourself.”
That’s right, my thoughts are built on the basis that Tetsu-senpai’s testimony was a lie. However—
”What does that mean? Does it mean someone moved the unconscious Hayano Tomohiko to the school entrance? Why?”
”That’s a possibility as well, and Tetsu might have been the person who moved him. That way, you can explain the contradictions of the direction that Hayano Tomohiko was collapsed and also the reason that nobody noticed him before Tetsu.”
Why was that done? Who did it? Was it senpai?
”I don’t know the answer as well, so that’s why I’m asking you to investigate.”
”…… But it can’t be in the greenhouse. The greenhouse has a cement floor after all, and rainwater can’t flow inside. If there was really so much blood, stains should still be there even now.”
I recalled the location where Akaya jumped down to. The ground that was paved with cement located between the garden and the school buildings. That happened during January. It snowed and rained quite a few times after the incident, but the stains were still there. Things like blood stains are hard to erase both from reality and from our hearts.
”Anyways, just hurry up and investigate it. If the place where Hayano Tomohiko was collapsed at was not the location where he was first found, then the chances of him having collapsed in the greenhouse increases drastically. By the way, go ask your advisor if anything was spread or placed on the greenhouse floor that time.”
”…… Got it. I’ll go check it out tomorrow.”
”There’s another matter apart from that, one that even I cannot find out. That is the teaching equipment management list.”
”Buying or getting rid of teaching equipments would leave a record, right? I wish to know of the changes in amount of this. This information can probably be obtained from the school’s Management office. Your school is too outdated, not even storing data in the computer folders, so that’s why I couldn’t find out about it.”
”This…… What does that have to do with this?”
”Can you please get rid of your bad habit of asking the detective the reason for her investigations in each and every matter?”
Alice turned her head around and looked at me with a thoroughly annoyed expression.
”I don’t know if there are any connections, so that’s why I’m investigating. My assumptions and thread of thoughts spread out to weave a web of ten thousand possibilities, liquefying all of them to make it easier for your brain of sponge to absorb is too much of a hassle. I’ll say it’s better if you just shut your mouth and take actions.”
Okay, okay, I get it.
While holding the digital camera that Alice lent me and the massive pile of information of how to cope with Tetsu-senpai, I walked out of the office. It was just a bit cloudy when I came, but now it’s pouring. Drops of rain hammered on the emergency stairs that was made of metal, harrying people with its noisiness.
It was then the monsoon season, near the end of May. At the same time, Ayaka’s and my shelter was about to be trampled on, torn apart, vanishing without a trace.
When I walked to the kitchen backdoor, Major and Hiro-san were already waiting there, and that made me lose my energy.
”Here, we’re having special training today as well. The shop owner praised that even though your boxing skills aren’t much, your actions of cleaning is quite thorough!” Hiro-san said with a smile on his face. I don’t feel happy at all being praised in such a matter. It seems that I have to undergo three hours of hellish training today as well……
”Since the weather is so bad today, you might be asked to clean up the entrance.”
”…… Why do I feel like the job is deviating from its original purpose?”
I even feel like I’m being treated as a free cleaning tool…… Hiro-san smiled while saying ‘I’ll go get the car then’, then walked out from the alley. This time, it was Major’s turn to lean over with a smile on his face, taking out a box from his backpack after pulling me to the rain shelter.
”I made a super enhanced version of ‘Wii Tetsu’. Tetsu-san’s movements will be three times his usual speed, and his punch is seven times the original version, so you can rest assured!” What nonsense.
”Ah, that’s right, Major……”
I nearly pulled out the papers that Alice gave me, but I hesitated.
Major should be unclear about Tetsu-senpai’s past as well, especially regarding ‘that matter’…… I wanted to speak of the information that Alice found out, but I just couldn’t do so.
”Hmm? What is it, Vice Admiral Fujishima? What are the papers in your hands?”
”Ah, no, this…… I think it’s better not to—“
”You really don’t need to worry so much. Vice Admiral Fujishima, you can be said to be a martial artist, right? So you must have the determination to use each and every resource to attain victory.”
Who are you calling a martial artist? I wanted to rebuke him, but hesitated, sinking into deep thought in the end.
Things might be as Major had said, this is a fight. Besides, the reason that I started the fight was to expose the truth that Tetsu-senpai wanted to hide in the first place. Even if anything happened in senpai’s past, I probably don’t have the spare time to worry if that matter would be known by Major.
”Erm…… Alice told me something just now……”
I handed the papers about Tetsu-senpai to Major. Major’s expression was unchanged after he looked through it.
”…… Hn hnn? Now I see. This might be a breakthrough.”
”Can you enter this information into the stimulator?”
”Vice Admiral Fujishima truly likes to ask for the impossible, your land troop qualities hasn’t changed at all.”
Major smiled in complacence.
”I will try to finish installing it by tomorrow. This will be the specially upgraded version of ‘Wii Tetsu’. However, you should know that you can only grasp the overall feel with this. As for where Tetsu-san’s blind spot is in reality……”
Major jabbed at my chest.
”It looks like you’ll have to get the feel from the real process.”
I nodded in answer, blocking Major’s third straight punch.
The rain did not stop even until the following day.
I could not ride my bike, and added with the fact that I heard that the rain might become heavier and heavier, so I must finish the matters at school ASAP and leave the school, going to the detective agency in advance. The first place that I had to go would be the Inspection office. Among the matters that Alice wanted me to investigate, I asked Kousaka-senpai for her help for the part about the amount management of teaching equipments. After all, the staff probably wouldn’t let me see such a thing even if I went to the Management office.
”Mnn? Eh? What do you want that for?”
As expected, Kousaka-senpai was taken aback because of my request.
”Well…… Actually I’m not sure what it’s for as well.”
”Is it what the girl called Alice asked you to investigate?”
”Though she looks like that, she’s still quite a somewhat skilled detective. I’ll be counting on you.”
”…… It feels like the both of you trust each other very much. A relationship like yours is rather enviable.”
Does it seem like that? Isn’t it more like Alice completely doesn’t need to rely on me?
”That’s because Fujishima-kun is too close with that girl. I can tell in one look.”
They’ve just met for one time, what is she talking about?
”So I’ll trust you guys as well. So it’s just a request for the Management office, right? I’ll think of an excuse.”
”Thank you. Erm…… If you find out about anything, can you fax it to Alice’s place? I have to hurry and leave the school.” After saying that, I passed a note with Alice’s fax number to her.
”Got it. I’ll fax it over as soon as I can, I hope that I can settle it by today.”
”Sorry for giving you trouble.”
”It won’t, as this is my request after all.”
”But……” I stammered, and still spoke in the end. “If we continue to investigate like this, even if we find out the reason of the establishment of the Gardening Club…… Is there a possibility that it would make what the Management is trying to do more justified?”
Kousaka-senpai stayed silent.
Actually, that is quite a plausible possibility. That’s because the club is founded for a certain reason, and was formed through Minagawa Kengo’s connections by talking things over with the Student Council and the teaching staff. The people who want to change the rules would rejoice even if this got out. We might have been doing meaningless things— the cold, empty feeling haunted me.
”That’s okay, we’ll see when that time comes. It just depends on how you use the information, and I will definitely hang on until the last second. We’re now discussing the last part of the amendments with Kaoruko-chan. Even if we can’t protect all of them, I will do my best to let the extant clubs continue.”
This person seems to be tougher than she appears to be……
”However…… Though it’s a bit embarrassing to say this when Fujishima-kun had been doing all of this, but the Gardening Club…… has only two members, so it’s in more danger……” Kousaka-senpai looked rather subdued.
Among the amendments that Kaoruko-senpai suggested, a club must have at least six club members, and Kousaka-senpai is working hard to lower the number. But even if she achieves that, keeping the Gardening Club is next to impossible.
”No, that’s not senpai’s fault……”
I suddenly thought of the matter that I talked over with Hiro-san on the way back from the soapland. The most important thing is not the existence of the Gardening Club, but the flowers in the school.
”Erm…… I’m not sure if this would work, but I thought of something before this.”
After I told Kousaka-senpai what I thought of, a slight radiance illuminated her face.
”…… I see…… Hmm…… It’s not impossible.”
”Yes. Compared with what Minagawa-senpai did, this should be much simpler.”
That’s true. Because the method that Minagawa Kengo used was an even more impossibly forced way, and compared with that……
I could only depend on Kousaka-senpai for the rest.
”We must have the support of the teachers for this, and the more the better. I wonder would support this. There isn’t much time left……”
Senpai muttered to herself. It looks like she’s reminding herself of what to do.
”Mnn, this method is worth a try. Shinozaki-san probably doesn’t wish for the Gardening Club to vanish as well, joining a club that she’s uninterested in, right? She probably wishes for the Gardening Club to continue, isn’t that right?”
Senpai’s words made me think that something was wrong. What did she say just now?
”W- what is it?”
”What did you say just now?”
”Are you referring to Shinozaki-san’s matter? Not wishing for the Gardening Club to vanish?”
”No, not that.”
My expression that time should be rather scary, because senpai looked rather frightened.
”Having to join a club that she doesn’t wish to join…… is that it?”
All of a sudden, a lot of thoughts that surfaced in my heart joined together. The thing that Kousaka-senpai plans to do, the matter that Kaoruko-senpai is trying to force through, the thing that I am trying to protect— all of them formed a story.
Is this really possible? It’s possible in theory. If that’s it……
”Erm…… I suddenly thought of something……” Kousaka-senpai looked extremely troubled, while I carefully explained in discretion. “You’re planning to negotiate with Kaoruko-senpai to ask her to lower the lowest number a club must have, right? There might be something that we can do about this, saving the Gardening Club in the process.”
”Wha…… What are your plans?” Kousaka-senpai leaned towards me.
”Instigating the teachers, and it’s best to be the sports teachers. Ah, and the club presidents’ meeting. If so, someone might object to the Student Council.”
After hearing my detailed explanation, Kousaka-senpai stood up in obvious excitement.
”Why don’t we try this? I never thought about this. You’re really something, Fujishima-kun.”
”Do you think it can work? We might get scolded instead……”
”How would you know that it wouldn’t work if you haven’t even tried it? If we start the Student Council’s general meeting in this situation, all of this would be over.”
I suddenly recalled Major’s words— ‘You must have the determination to use each and every resource to attain victory.’
”I think it’s better if I go. Fujishima-kun, it seems that the teacher doesn’t have a good impression of you.”
Those words were spot on, and I could only smile wryly. Senpai rushed out of the Inspection office, leaving through the chaotic corridors, while I watched at the sidelines.
She is now fighting to protect a place belonging to someone, and I need to battle with my own way as well.
The lights in the greenhouse were lit, and could be clearly seen through the rain. It looked just like the gingerbread house in a certain fairy tale.
”Fujishima-kun! So you finally feel like studying? The tests are approaching.”
As soon as I stepped into the greenhouse, Sayuri-sensei who was originally reading some textbooks happily raised her head.
Ayaka just glanced at me, then showed an embarrassed expression without saying anything.
There was always inexplicably confusing thoughts shrouding Ayaka and I. Even when we meet in the classroom or met each other’s gaze in the ramen shop with a counter separating us, neither of us knows what to say. Would just smiling without doing anything or lowering one’s head without saying anything suffice? I really don’t know. Even so, I can’t just avoid going to the greenhouse.
”Erm…... I’m just here to investigate something.”
”Really, you’re playing your detective game again? And you’re even holding such an expensive camera.”
Though I felt guilty in my heart, I still took photos here and there in the greenhouse so that there wouldn’t be anything left out.
”Shinozaki-san, show Mr. Grasshopper who’s just playing around here Miss Ant’s fruits of labor in this test, okay?”
I didn’t even see Ayaka’s reaction to sensei’s words.
There weren’t any flowerpots on the ground. In the past, this place should be full with flowerpots of the poppy flowers used as the raw material of Angel Fix, but since the drug dealing organization moved them away, only the racks by the walls have any flowerpots on it. Therefore, looking through this place thoroughly isn’t that hard.
And the said blood stains couldn’t be seen on the floor at all.
”Sensei, I want to ask something.”
”Hmm? Do you want to study now?”
”Not really. Were there flowerpots or something like that on the ground when you were teaching the people here before this?”
”No. The members of the Gardening Committee didn’t even plant anything here, so that’s why it’s so easy to move tables, the blackboard and so on in here.”
Ah, so things are like this? Then, assuming Hayano Tomohiko really vomited blood and collapsed here, his blood should be on the cement floor— wait, perhaps they might be on the tables? But even so, some blood should still spill onto the ground. Besides, if things really like that, the bloodstained tables should be noticed after that.
Perhaps Alice’s assumptions are wrong?
Anyways, there should be bloodstains somewhere. There weren’t any signs of blood on the snow by the school entrance, so that’s not the place, but somewhere else.
Of course, assuming his blood was left on snow somewhere else, the blood might have seeped into the soil with the melted snow, and we can’t get to know anything more—
All of a sudden, the whole greenhouse sank into darkness. Through the viewfinder of the camera, it was pitch dark in front of me as well. I raised my head in surprise after hearing Ayaka’s cry and could only see the dark rainy skies outside the skylight of the greenhouse. The lights were off. Perhaps it’s just my imagination? The sounds of rainfall were so clear that it was like they were directly pounding on me.
”…… Ahhh, it happened again.”
Sayuri-sensei’s unconcerned tone made people feel even more uneasy, and then she stood up.
”Shinozaki-san, can you help me to support the table?”
”Wh- what is it? A blackout?”
”No, it’s just the lights. It would turn out like that occasionally when it rains.”
Sensei took off her high heeled shoes and jumped onto the table, while I, who was startled into lying down on the ground, hastily distanced myself from the table. Oh please, you’re wearing a skirt right now, other people would see if you’re not careful!
”It’ll brighten after you take this off and shift it a bit…… Ah, that’s right, Fujishima-kun, can you please turn off the circuit breaker? I once tried to fix it without turning it off, some sparks frightened me so much that I almost fell from the table.”
As Sayuri-sensei’s descriptions were rather scary, I hurriedly turned off the circuit breaker, and sensei took down the large light bulb that was like a hanging oil lamp along with its holder. The ceiling of the greenhouse was sleek, crisscrossing metal beams, and there were sprinklers and a box shaped device about the size of a primary school student’s bag installed on it. After hanging the light bulb onto the box, the circuit breaker was turned on once more. When the lights recovered once more, the sounds of the raindrops were gradually lost in the warm glow. Ayaka looked relieved as well and sat down.
”Okay, it’s lit again.” Sensei looked rather triumphant.
”This place…... Feels somewhat like sensei’s house.” I suddenly said.
”Though it’s quite nice having so many flowers here, having no bathroom is somewhat of a hassle.”
As sensei answered in a solemn manner, Ayaka couldn’t help but laugh out loud.
”Would it leak water here?”
I asked while continuing on my work of taking photos. The lights went haywire because of the rainy day, so does that mean the ceiling is damaged?
”Ah— Mnn, this place had already passed its prime, so it wouldn’t be strange even if there are some leaks over here.”
If so, even if Hayano Tomohiko vomited blood and collapsed here, the blood stains might have been washed away because of the water— No no no, what am I talking about? It was snowing that day, and how could the dripping water wash the blood stains away? While going into wild flights of fancy, I took photos of the condition of the ceiling.
To avoid the digital camera from getting wet, I placed it back into my bag after wrapping it with two layers of plastic bags, and planned to leave after making a ‘Sorry’ gesture to Sayuri-sensei.
”Ah, ah, Fujishima-kun.”
Hearing Ayaka’s voice, I turned my head over.
”You’re going to ‘Hanamaru Ramen’, right?”
The pleading expression on Ayaka’s face made her look a few years younger. I nodded in answer.
”Then, then…… I’m going with you!”
Ayaka took her bag and stood up.
”Fujishima-kun, you always bring Shinozaki-san away every time you come. It’s all Fujishima-kun’s fault if the both of you fail your exams.”
Sayuri-sensei teased me half-jokingly, switched off the lights and chivvied us out of the greenhouse.
Ayaka and I held an umbrella each, planning to walk to Hanamaru Ramen slowly. As we couldn’t find anything to say to each other, we walked forward in silence. I was even somewhat thankful for the rainy day, as the sounds of rainfall helped to break our silence. But when we were squeezed into the underpass along with the crowd, the rain started to diminish. There was only a small distance to the building where Hanamaru Ramen is at.
The sounds of rainfall couldn’t stop our voices anymore.
”…… Are you still planning to fight with Tetsu-san? Seriously?”
Ayaka finally broke the silence.
”…… Even if I say that you don’t need to do that? It’s meaningless to me no matter how the Gardening Club turns out to be.”
I could only answer her weakly.
”Were you like this even before this?”
Ayaka suddenly asked when we were passing by the small path beside the park.
”…… Before this?”
”Eh? Ah, erm……” Ayaka’s face reddened slightly before she turned around to look at me from below her umbrella. “I just thought you didn’t speak much to me in the past as well.”
I couldn’t bear to continue to stare at Ayaka’s face. I really wish she wouldn’t use the comparison of herself before and after she lost her memories to talk to me.
”There’s probably not much change. I’m not really much of a talker from before this, and can’t find anything to say as well.”
Eh, hmm? Why do even I, myself, feel embarrassed after saying that?
”T- then!” Ayaka held her umbrella higher, causing rainwater to splash everywhere. “Then please tell me in the future. If there’s anything that you want to say to me, please speak your mind! I will tell you if I have anything to say as well!”
”Ayaka, what are you trying to say……?”
”Aren’t I telling you this right now!?”
Ah, that’s right. I understand. Then— is it my turn? To be honest, it’s hard. As she said before this, shout when I’m angry, laugh when I’m happy, speak out when I want something, I couldn’t do it even though it’s so simple.
”…… It was so hard for me to get that to you, so why don’t you at least wear the armband during club activities?”
I asked as the thought suddenly came to me.
”That thing…… It’s embarrassing for me to wear it alone. Fujishima-san, you’re not wearing it as well, aren’t you?”
”It's embarrassing for me as well, so I don’t feel like wearing it.”
Ayaka furiously emphasized that I was the one who made it, then took out her black armband from her bag and pinned it on her arm with a safety pin.
”I’m wearing it! Is there anything else!?”
I shut my mouth once again. Actually, there are still a lot of things. For instance, you don’t need to be so polite when talking to me, don’t add a ‘-san’ behind my name and so on. But since these requests felt like I was forcibly pulling Ayaka back to the past, I couldn’t bear to say it.
”What about you, Ayaka? Is there anything else?”
I asked her back in the end. Ayaka looked obviously annoyed, and answered after staying silent for awhile:
”Please don’t get into a fight with Tetsu-san.”
”No. Can I still run away when things have come to this point?”
”Don’t push yourself!”
”You’re the one who’s pushing yourself!” I didn’t think that she could actually be more troublesome than Alice, not giving up even till now.
”I definitely won’t see you!”
After shouting at me, Ayaka bit her lip and stayed silent.
When we reached the front door of the ramen shop, the rain stopped.
”It’s better if the rain can keep falling, so that the rainwater can flush away your plans of fighting.”
Ayaka started to say something like that again, making me stare at the side of the face while thinking of how to refute her. Separated by the closing umbrella, Ayaka’s face was then blocked by the portiere, vanishing into the ramen shop.
As I couldn’t take a step into the shop, I could only walk around to the back alley.
”You’re really bad at using cameras. Can’t you take better photos?”
Alice moved the photos I took into the computer while scolding.
”That’s because it was the first time I used such a large camera…… And also, why do you have so many cameras, Alice? Don’t you just stay in this room?”
”Of course they’re used for taking photos of my good friends.”
Alice pointed at the hill of dolls. Oh, so that’s why…… She doesn’t only cherish these things. With a triumphant expression on her face, Alice even planned to pull out a few GBs of photos out from a file, and I hastily stopped her. Shouldn’t we prioritize our detective work?
”Mnn, that’s right. Then I’ll let you admire my private photo collection next time. Ah, let’s just use these photos as your payment next month, what do you think?”
”I don’t want them, give me cash……”
While scolding my prose personality, mammonism, and desecration of art, Alice turned around to go through the photos of the greenhouse.
”I’m asking you because I trust your observation power. Didn’t you find any blood stains?”
”Mnn…… Of course, there’s a lot of black dirt, but I’m not sure if it’s blood. But indeed, there aren’t any particularly large stains.”
”Hmm, things should be so.”
”What do you mean by things should be so……?”
”If such a thing exists, it would be noticed ages ago when the case happened. I’m just reconfirming the fact.”
”So that means that the place that Hayano Tomohiko collapsed at was not the greenhouse, right?”
Originally planning to answer, Alice suddenly stared at one of her monitors without saying a thing. It was a photo that I took of the greenhouse.
”…… What’s with you?”
”What is this thing?”
”What thing……? Ah, that’s—“
I started to explain the things that occurred in the greenhouse. Alice widened her eyes, and narrowed them again.
Suddenly, an electronic sound rang in the room. It was the fax machine on the top layer of the cupboard on our right. One paper after another were expelled from the fax machine, dropping directly onto the bed.
My phone rang.
’Ah, is it Fujishima-kun? I am Kousaka. I finally convinced one of the staff to let me have a look, and I’m faxing them right now. As I’m not sure how much information you need, I’ll just fax all of them there though there’s quite a lot.’
I almost didn’t notice what Kousaka-senpai spoke of, and wasn’t even sure of how I thanked her and hung up.
Alice picked up the stack of fax papers, stood up and stared at the list. For some reason, her expression would make people feel refreshed and full of vigor.
”I understand now.”
The mumblings of the NEET detective spread to me along with the cold wind.
”You understand now?”
”Mnn, I understand almost all of it now.”
Alice raised her head to look at the ceiling. Tens of fax papers dropped from her hands like snowflakes and scattered by her leg.
”The things that Tetsu did, the thing that Hayano Tomohiko wanted to do, and the suspect, all of them are connected now. But regarding Minagawa Kengo— I still don’t understand. He’s obviously connected to the same truth, but I still don’t understand the reason.”
Why did Minagawa Kengo create the Gardening Club? This is the most important truth to me, to Kousaka-senpai and to Ayaka. And it happens that— we can’t know the reason for this?
”He did things alone, not letting the others see it, and vanished silently in a quagmire.”
Alice sat on her bed again. I noticed that the vigor and energy on her face just now was replaced by a damp sorrow, making me feel somewhat short of breath as well.
”Tetsu-senpai must know something. As long as I can defeat him, you’ll be the one to question him, Alice.”
Not only for Ayaka and I, the battle is for this delicate detective as well, that was what I told myself.
Alice rubbed her eyes and furrowed her brows while thinking. Not long after that, she crawled to my side along the blankets, giving me a punch each with both of her hands. It was weak and unenergetic, and it might not even kill a water flea, but it wasn’t clear how much words of the deceased were exposed by the hands, and were dirtied by blood because of bogus magic.
”You’re still thinking of such dumb things even now? Who would anticipate your opinionated, moronic actions? Whatever, it’s best if you regret only when your teeth or bones are broken.
The day that the current president of the Student Council came to look for me at my class was Monday— the day when I was prepared to have a fight to the death with Tetsu-senpai, and it was right after the bell signifying the end of the fourth period rang.
”Is Fujishima-kun here?”
The slender-bodied, long haired Kaoruko-senpai was standing outside the classroom door, and the class sank into commotion.
”O- o- o- oi, Fujishima! Kaoruko-san is calling you!”
”It seems like Fujishima’s misdeeds would have to end here.”
”Why don’t you pounce on her to hug her before you’re killed!”
Shut up. And also, don’t tail me!
It felt as though the air by Kaoruko-senpai’s side was electrified, it could obviously be seen that she was tremendously furious. After a ‘Please come over here!’, I was brought to the corner of a staircase.
”…… I- is there anything wrong?”
There were countless matters that could make her angry that I could think of, so I had no idea how I annoyed her……
”Ushijima-sensei discussed some matters with me just now. It’s about the amendment of the rules.”
Isn’t Ujishima-sensei the boss of the sports teachers? It has been said that he once took the second place in the Judo event of the National Games.
”I really don’t understand why he only has something to say now. He even said that he’s going to discuss the details with me after school. However, it seems that you’ve done something according to Kousaka.”
”Ah, ahhhhh, y- yes.”
Why didn’t Kousaka-senpai explain things herself……?
”And the club presidents were informed of an emergency meeting as well. You’re probably the instigator, isn’t that right?”
Saying that I’m the instigator might be too over, but the initiator was indeed me. So how should I explain this now? Judging from Kaoruko-senpai’s gaze, it seems that she indeed wants to beat me up. Oh well, even if I ignore her now, I would be beaten to death by Tetsu-senpai in the evening anyways.
”I asked Kousaka-senpai to go the sports teachers’ office, and it’s the same for the club presidents’ meeting. That means, I asked her to explain how much trouble it might bring if the Management’s proposal of the amendment of rules is accepted.”
”What trouble would it bring to the teachers?”
As Kaoruko-senpai kept getting closer to me, I was forced to lean against the wall.
”Isn’t there a rule in our school that every student must join at least one club? According to your amendment proposal, the existing clubs with five members or less will be abolished. If so, about eighty club refugees would appear! Though putting it like that isn’t that nice, that’s the whole truth.”
Kaoruko-senpai wore an expression as though she was stabbed, showing that she probably didn’t think about that situation— most people doesn’t know that the weeds that they are stepping on have names as well, but the weeds still bloom during the spring.
”After that, the eighty people will join the other large clubs. Using sports clubs as an example, they might accept a crowd of new members who don’t concentrate on practices. Wouldn’t this bring trouble to the sports teachers acting as the adviser or the coach? That’s why the club president meeting cannot put this aside as well.”
I don’t know if it will turn out like that in reality, though there is a possibility, so much of what I have said was just improvised. But that’s the only weapon that I have, and this weapon seems to be quite effective on the sports teachers.
Should I continue to speak? Though I hesitated, I still spoke in the end:
”Everyone probably wants a place that belongs to themselves, right? They probably hope to be able to at least choose a club that they’re interested in. Nobody will be happy if they’re forced to join a club that they’re uninterested in.”
Unexpectedly, Kaoruko-senpai actually leaned against the wall by my side, sinking into deep thought while covering her mouth.
”That’s right…… But……”
I originally thought that I would be strongly rebuked. Is she really thinking things over properly?
”…… Even so.” Kaoruko-senpai seemed rather helpless. “The Accounting division of the Management definitely won’t stand for this. And this problem arose because of the unfair budget in the first place. Now—“
”That’s why I’m telling you—”
I bit my lip, and hesitated whether I should continue to speak. This is the second best plan. Moreover, things can’t be turned back anymore if I fail now.
Even so, there’s probably no ways other than this.
”Lower the minimum number club members to about four…… Kousaka-senpai said that this might be better as well. If you do that, over half of the clubs would avoid abolishment, but as senpai wishes for, the Gardening Club will still be abolished. Though it isn’t that nice phrasing it like this, but we’re willing to be the scapegoat who convinces the others during the Student Council general meeting.”
Kaoruko-senpai furrowed her brows.
”Why? Didn’t you put in a lot of effort running here and there so that the Gardening Club would not be abolished?”
I shook my head.
”Actually, the club isn’t that important.”
The thing that I wanted to protect is the place that belongs to Ayaka.
”I wish to restore the Gardening Committee.”
Kaoruko-senpai nearly cried out loud, while I continued my explanation to prevent her from shouting:
”Because things should be like this in the first place. Since this concerns the facilities of the school, shouldn’t the school use its own resources? It’s because some people wants to forcibly abolish it, while some other people wants to maintain it that abnormal budgets like this would appear. So why don’t we return it to its original state? And there shouldn’t be anything wrong with a Gardening Committee—“
I stopped. It seemed like the blazing flames of fury in Kaoruko-senpai would liquefy, spilling out at any moment.
”Restoring the Gardening Committee? Something like this…… You’re actually telling me to agree to this!?”
”I’ve asked Kousaka-senpai about this already. If it can work, as long as the Student Council agrees to it, I think the staff probably—“
”Stop messing with me!”
Kaoruko-senpai banged the wall forcefully, it’s a good thing that there is next to no one who walks around the stairs at the edge of the school building. I never thought that she would be that angry.
”You— didn’t you find out a lot of things? Even though you know everything, you’re still giving me such a request?”
”Then……” I’m a really cruel person. While thinking of that, I spoke out the truth that I learnt ages ago: “Senpai, you truly wish to abolish the Gardening Club because of personal vengeance, don’t you?”
Kaoruko-senpai glared at me with her eyes full of tears.
”…… That’s right, you’re absolutely right. Can’t I even do that? Those people are the ones who caused Tomohiko to die in the first place! The person called Minagawa is definitely involved in this! Tomohiko always mentioned his name. He was really so stupid, believing that those people were his friends even though he was bullied……!”
”Wait, please wait a minute!”
I interrupted Kaoruko’s declaration that was like hot molten metal.
”Had your brother ever mentioned Tetsu-senpai— Ichinomiya Tetsuo?”
”He often mentioned that person, saying that he’s friendly with him, but how could that be possible? Tomohiko was rather unhealthy, and he didn’t have many friends at school, so that’s why……”
Our voices interweaved in the air, turning garbled.
”I’m thinking that senpai really was your brother’s friend.”
”What are you talking abo—“
I slammed my palm beside Kaoruko-senpai’s face with a bang as she was trying to interject.
”The reason that Tetsu-senpai chose to drop out was definitely not because he caused Tomohiko-senpai to die. He has other reasons. I have no concrete evidence right now, so I can’t say anything about this right now, but—“
”What are you trying to say?”
”But I’m going to prove this right now!”
I clenched my fists while standing in front of Kaoruko-senpai. Those words were actually for myself. If I don’t say that, I’m afraid that I wouldn’t have the courage to face things.
I must now beat Tetsu-senpai up— and then prove his innocence.
Kaoruko-senpai pushed my arm away with her face red and ran towards the stairs, turning around to say along the way: ‘Whatever, idiot!’ Not long after that, senpai’s footsteps vanished in the corridors.
I continued to support myself on the wall with my palm, opening my fists to take a look for awhile, and tightly clenched it once more.
On the level of building below the Hirasaka-gumi’s office was a large ceremonial hall with wooden floorboards. I once entered this place before this, as it was the place where Yondaime and I underwent the sake ceremony.
On the big day, a large tatami mat was spread at the center of the ceremonial hall, while candles and scrolls of Hachiman Great Bodhisattva were hung in the restroom. A crowd of men in black T-shirts were kneeling around the place with their hands on their knees. Just by entering from the steel door, it made me feel my will of battle start to dissipate.
”Aniki, thanks for your hard work!”
”Thanks for your hard work!”
Oh please, can’t there be less people here?
”Tetsu isn’t here as well.”
Yondaime spoke while standing by my side. As the witness, Yondaime was garbed completely in white— a white jacket and trousers, but it was different from the feel of Hiro-san in white— he was like a grim reaper.
”Erm…... You don’t need to make things this big, do you……”
”But there’s no other place that can let people fight until they’re hurt.”
That’s not wrong, but…... Well, this place is spacious enough. But do they have to invite such a large audience?
”Aniki, we’re counting on you today!”
”I’ve bet ten thousand yen!”
Rough voices came from the surroundings. I’m not sure if it was because news of Hiro-san and Major giving me special training got out, but it seems like people started to bet on me as well. Or maybe it was because the odds on Tetsu-senpai were too low? Since this caused the number of people betting on me to increase drastically, it raised the odds on the people supporting Tetsu-senpai instead. I really don’t have the courage to ask about the final odds……
”I’m getting this clear first. When should I stop you two? For instance, how many times you’re beaten down? Or if a large impact hits the head—“
”Please don’t stop us.”
I stared at the corner of Yondaime’s mouth, answering determinedly. Seeing his gaze that had the sharpness of a wolf, I suddenly got weak again.
”That’s true, it’s a waste of effort. This is a fight after all.”
Yondaime turned over to face the restroom, the scroll of Trilokavijaya  behind his jacket looking as though it was glaring at me.
”Then let it be a fight to the finish.”
I nodded in answer.
When Tetsu-senpai arrived at the scene, I was wrapping the bandages onto my fists.
”Oh— it seems that quite a lot of people gathered here.”
As usual, senpai was wearing a T-shirt, but a set of red boxing gloves were hung on his shoulders. His looked rather casual as though he was just here to do some fishing, and he looked around the whole ceremonial hall.
”Ojiki, thanks for your hard work!”
”Thanks for your hard work!”
All of the members bowed at the same time.
”Hmm? Why is Narumi wearing gloves?”
Tetsu-senpai asked after looking at the coffee-colored gloves that I was about to wear.
”Aren’t we going to box?”
”Senpai, didn’t you bring gloves as well?”
”Oh, this one?” Senpai patted the gloves made of synthetic leather that was hung on his shoulders while saying: “From before this, I didn’t dare to use my full power when fighting, as I might really kill someone if I use my fists to hit directly. The gloves—“
Senpai stopped for awhile, and looked downwards at my fists, his gaze full of loneliness.
”Are worn for me to fight the opponent with all my strength.”
It’s over…… My knees started to tremble. I tried hard to refrain the terror surging from my heart.
”So that’s why…… I’m not here to box as well. This is one of my battle strategies.”
”Is that so.”
After that, the two of us did not speak anymore.
The next person who walked in was Major, who was carrying a tripod and a video recorder on his shoulders.
”Sorry for the wait, we’re about to start soon.”
”Isn’t Hiro coming?” Tetsu-senpai asked.
”Hiro-san is at Hanamaru Ramen right now. He’s going to bring Ayaka over if she changes her mind. But I think that it would probably be too late by then, isn’t that right?”
As the day of my fight with Tetsu-senpai approached, Ayaka wasn’t even willing to speak to me anymore. And she especially emphasized that she wouldn’t come and see me……
Alice wasn’t at the scene as well, probably because she thinks that I don’t have a chance of winning?
That’s fine with me as well. This isn’t a scene that I want them to see. Tetsu-senpai was willing to come, while I did not choose to run away as well. Just because of this, the last possibilities had already joined together.
After saying that, Tetsu-senpai turned around, using his fist to punch the other, giving out a ‘thud’ sound, so that his gloves would fit more. While Yondaime stood in front of the altar—
”There’s no starting gong, you idiots can start if you want to.”
Those words signified the starting gong.
I had just raised my hands to my chin position when Tetsu-senpai approached in an extremely low posture in a flash. It was all thanks to the reflex I trained out using Major’s stretching machine, or my defenses would probably be broken immediately, hitting my chin. A large impact then came from my front, and I felt that my hands almost broke. My whole body was knocked backwards, the friction caused between my back and the tatami mat was burning hot.
I didn’t see anything! Did he really punch me? He wouldn’t have rammed into me with his body, would he! As I was trying to stand up to maintain distance, a large shadow was already shrouded over me.
I was forced to raise my elbows to block the rapid fire bombardment of shells, but the impact still spread to the side of my abdomen in the end.
It burns! It was as though the position that was hit almost drifted out of my body. Calm down, remember to use the eyes to catch the opponent’s silhouette, I have no other weapons other than this.
”Aniki, stop acting like a turtle and attack!”
”Beat him up directly, Ojiki!”
I heard the cries of the irresponsible members from afar.
A shadow suddenly dashed into my field of vision. I hurriedly raised my hands and extended it forward slightly. The first thing that the muscled shop owner taught me was that keeping my hands closely pressed to my body in self defense because of fear would only cause the death sentence to become earlier. That’s because the damage by the opponent would be more than expected, and it would also cause myself to lose the sense of distance with the opponent.
That means— don’t use the hands as armor, but an obstacle.
Ka-bam. There was a chilling ring as the shells that were shot at me squeezed through my arm in an attack. I see it! At the instant when I thought that, the right part of my vision was already dyed with a red color along with a charred smell. My ears started to ring along with the shouts of the surrounding people, and I felt a pain spreading to my teeth after a moment. I nearly kneeled down right then.
The next punch hit my head. No, shouldn’t it have grazed the corner of my eyes? I wasn’t sure of how serious my injuries were, I only knew that I couldn’t stand up so steadily any more.
Between my hands, senpai’s silhouette could now be seen clearly. I see it! I brushed off the next wave of attack with the back of my hand, and I suddenly launched my first wave of attacks from the right. Thud! Tetsu-senpai easily blocked my attack, and launched a kick at my abdomen— that’s right, a forceful kick! That’s because we’re not boxing right now. I rapidly went backwards, evading the counter attack.
”Oh? So you only learnt how to defend?”
”I’ve learnt another secret technique as well.”
After hearing my words, Tetsu-senpai raised his brows slightly. Is he thinking that I’m bluffing? Whatever. In reality, I only have a tiny chance of victory in the first place, it’s better for me if the opponent believes that. As Major said, in this battle, even if I’m badly beaten up, I still have to search for something— Tetsu-senpai’s blind spot.
Senpai’s upper torso started to move left and right. The rhythm of him twisting around corroded my pulse step by step.
He’s coming! When I realized it, senpai’s face was already by my side. I rapidly squatted down, while senpai’s elbow attack grazed past the hair on the back of my head like a sickle. So he planned to use his elbow to attack my head. While rolling on the tatami mat, I felt as though an ice block of terror was stuffed into my stomach. I was too naive, this person really planned to kill me.
As I was about to stand up, my lower abdomen was hit by a certain object.
I could heard my own moaning along with the sound of the bloody saliva being spat out of my own mouth. Tetsu-senpai’s kick was so forceful that I almost sprang up from the tatami mat.
”What are you lying down for! Hurry up and stand, it’s hard for me to beat you up like this.”
Tetsu-senpai’s shouts descended on me like acid rain, burning into my ears. I pressed one of my hands on my abdomen while using the other to support my body. My chin was trembling…… This is bad! My whole body is shuddering. Whenever I saw Tetsu-senpai coldly rolling his eyes, I would give off a hiccup from my throat, my body going backwards by itself.
Is this person really Tetsu-senpai?
My thoughts were just too naive. Thinking that this is just a fight between kids, thinking that he isn’t a person to hate. I tried to cease those thoughts, but they still remained in a corner somewhere in my heart. I remember that Tetsu-senpai once said, if you imagine that the opponent would be hurt, we can’t attack the others. Now, I could fully understand the meaning of those words. In the process of fighting, the thing that is most required is the lack of a certain imagination.
I couldn’t do it at all.
”H- hey, Aniki is in trouble.”
”His eyes are already dead.”
Unknowingly, the applause of the audience couldn’t be heard anymore, and what took its place were murmurs. It’s noisy, shut up! I’m the clearest about this!
Tetsu-senpai approached with a completely unguarded posture. He knew that it would strike the most terror in people’s heart. I kept going backwards to the edge of the tatami mat, almost falling down, and was soon forced to a corner. Senpai raised his gloves…… I’ll get caught! I reflexively pushed away his hand, and at that moment, something pounded onto my unguarded face. My world turned utterly white in a flash, only my consciousness was still wavering, and when it returned to my flesh once more, I was already sliding slowly onto the floor with my back to the walls. Something warm seeped out of my injured forehead, flowing down at the two sides of my nose. Though it did hurt, it didn’t feel as though it was my own. So I was hit on the head…… I could actually think so in an abnormal calmness.
On the next second, Tetsu-senpai’s finger stabbed between my rib bones.
”— *Cough*! *Hack*!”
I collapsed while vomiting blood. A second, a third, it felt like my innards were directly kicked at. My vision blurring because of blood, I frantically tried not to faint, thinking of a way to grab— to grab Tetsu-senpai’s leg.
My neck was hit with an attack that was like a scimitar, while my body collapsed onto the floor directly because of the attack. I just feel that it really isn’t simple for my head and my body to stay connected right until now.
”Oi, Narumi, you’re already done? You’re the one who asked for a fight, and you’re planning to just take a nap after being beaten senseless? If you don’t say anything, I’ll trample on your ribs until they break!”
I suddenly thought that it might be fine like that as well. I suppressed the pain in my whole body and tossed them aside, continuing to lie down with my teeth clenched. Never mind if he wants to break any bone, I don’t want to fight anymore! I can’t stand up anymore!
My back was assaulted with a blow that was like blocks of steel, while the air that I spat out had a rusty feel to it.
”Vice Admiral Fujishima! Oi, Tetsu-san! Aren’t you hitting a bit too hard!”
I heard Major’s shouts. When I opened my swollen eyes, a small silhouette was about to rush over to my side, but was stopped by the tall person garbed in white standing behind him— Yondaime.
That’s right, the person who asked him not to stop the match no matter what was me.
The following blow hit the side of my abdomen. Pain seeped into my spine. I rolled on the floor, thinking of a way to roll back to the center of the hall where the tatami mat was spread. When I heard footsteps once more, I stood up in a defensive stance with both my fists clenched, as though I was pulled upwards by an invisible spring.
Because of my swollen eyes, my field of vision was less than half of my usual, while Tetsu-senpai who was only one step away from me looked rather surprised.
”So you can still fight? Narumi, I never knew that you’re a guy with so much spunk.”
Senpai raised his hands once more as well, recovering his expression of a boxer.
”Is there a need to do this? Why do we have to do such an idiot thing?”
I started with a jab with my left hand, and followed up with a right uppercut, treating it as a replacement for the answer. At the instant when senpai leaned backwards slightly, successfully evading my attack, a tremendous force assaulted me with a ‘bam’, and something warm spurted out. I jumped backwards, the kneecap of one of my legs feeling as though it was going to break. So I was instantly countered. Blood trailed continuously from my nose, dripping onto the tatami mat.
”…… Because senpai is so strong.”
”I don’t get it!”
I was suddenly aware of the silence in the ceremonial hall. Except for Major who was struggling while being pressed down by Yondaime, nobody dared to move except for senpai and I, and nobody dared to speak half a word as well.
”You’re obviously so strong, but why did you give up on boxing? Why are you playing pachinko?”
I once again asked the question to which I already knew the answer for, while senpai’s expression changed slightly.
”Even if I don’t continue to box, nobody would feel troubled at all. But if I don’t play with the steel marbles, I would feel very troubled.”
Senpai showed a shallow smile. On the other hand, I continued to go forward, stubbornly assaulting him with jabs and uppercuts. Facing senpai’s steel-like defense, my attack was obviously negligible.
I think that he’s lying. There’s probably someone who feels sad because he isn’t boxing anymore. Right, right. Continuously repeating the movement of going forward and backward, one time after another, aiming at the same spot, I could only use the only boxing skill that I knew of. Not knowing how many times I went forward for, my leg at the front suddenly experienced a huge pressure like that of a guillotine and nearly sank into the tatami mat. It was stomped on! I couldn’t escape…… Everything is too late! Senpai’s elbow was highly raised—
The ceiling slowly swirled in my vision.
I did fall down on my back, the back of my head should have banged on the tatami mat, but I almost couldn’t feel anything. Only a lethargic feeling was present. Where have my hands and legs run off to? Indeed, I still can’t do it, it seems like I can’t stand anymore. I probably did quite well already, didn’t I? It had just been two weeks…… I underwent the hellish training of cleaning and spring machine, but still failed. For what purpose am I getting beaten up for? What would I lose if I give up here? It feels like all of those don’t matter anymore. The aches and pain everywhere in my body surfaced one after another, the blood dripping down seemed that they’re about to trickle into my eyes soon. Now, if I would just go along with the flow and pass out, I can easily—
In my upside down vision, the silver-gray metal door was suddenly opened, the rays of light outside piercing my eyes. As I was planning to close my eyes, I saw a silhouette whose long hair was whirled upwards by the wind in the opposing light.
The girl’s voice resounded in the hall. My consciousness blurred, my heart thinking: Is she still wearing pajamas because she rushed outdoors too quickly? I could faintly feel Alice running over here.
A long arm tightly held Alice from the back. It was Hiro-san. He pressed his hands on Alice’s shoulders, half of his body already in the hall.
”I’m telling you that you can’t do it! They’re fighting!”
That’s right, don’t bother us…… I’m going to get trampled to death by Tetsu-senpai right now. Pain that was as though I was pierced by a scorching iron rod came from the side of my abdomen. I cried in pain, rolling on the tatami mat while vomiting blood and saliva. Tetsu-senpai stood by my side.
”Tetsu! Just try it! Continue to hurt Narumi and I’ll break up all relationships with you!”
Alice screamed in Hiro-san’s arms.
”Whatever. We’re having a fight right now, stop meddling……”
I heard the chilling words that came from Tetsu-senpai, and the energy in my whole body trickled out from my hands and feet. It’s probably ending soon, right? How many more kicks would suffice? I was planning to close my eyes yet again, and at that moment—
”Narumi, you huge idiot! Are you trying to take away a good friend and assistant from my side once more!? If you dare to do such a thing, I won’t ever forgive you! Even if it’s in my next life or the next, I will never forgive you!”
Alice’s words surged through my whole body like an electric shock.
When I sprang up yet again, Tetsu-senpai’s foot stepped on nothingness. I rolled away on the tatami mat to maintain distance. It felt like almost all of the muscles in my body were going to peel away from my bones, but I still gritted my teeth and stood up.
That’s right, I must beat him up. Using the ability trained out by the spring training caused myself to make a battle stance once more. Once again, I fought to reclaim that place. Using my fists to confirm Tetsu-senpai’s kindness.
I spat out my saliva that was mixed with fresh blood onto the tatami mat. Tetsu-senpai approached while crouching. Just crossing my arms to block assaults from below caused my bones to scream for help, even my feet left the floor slightly. The two of us entangled and almost fell down, then there was immediately another jab. I frantically evaded it and used my shoulder to block the attack, and it felt like my joints were smashed to pieces. But that was my left shoulder. Just my right hand would be okay, it’s okay if I could lash out with a punch with my right hand. My scratched cheek was spurting blood. I forcefully stamped on senpai’s thigh, causing the muscled upper torso to shake slightly. I continued to lash out with my left hand that had almost no energy left. My assault was like a balloon waving in the wind. After easily blocking the attacking with the back of his hand, he planned to directly use his right fist to hit my face.
I crouched down, curving my upper torso in an almost couching angle. Senpai’s counterattack brushed past my face and shaved off a layer of skin, but my right hand waved by itself at that moment.
The emptiness in Tetsu-senpai’s vision— I can clearly see his blind spot!
The blow that I lashed out diagonally upwards at the same moment when I fell down to the floor was neither powerful nor speedy, and it was my last attack. People could probably evade it no matter who it is— even if it were to be me, I probably could look while evading the weak punch.
However, Tetsu-senpai did not see it.
My fists reached the sturdy chin directly. I straightened my arm as well, and with a ‘thud’, an indescribable sense of invigoration was spread to the back of my head. Though my eyes were wide open, I couldn’t see Tetsu-senpai’s silhouette, there were only shadows and a blood red color. Something suddenly pounced on me. So heavy! I was nearly squashed to death. I frantically struggled to free myself from that thing, and I only understood when I felt something falling on the surface of the floor by my foot—
Along with the headache and the serious ringing in my ears, I just stood at a side while looking at that thing. At that moment, I even thought that my soul was out of my body, looking at myself collapsed on the floor. But there was still the hot breathing belonging to me in my throat, and there was indeed the painful feeling on my kneecaps that had almost fractured that belonged to me as well.
The person who was lying by my foot was not me, but Tetsu-senpai.
How is that possible?
Such a thought suddenly arose, but of course that was because my fist crushed Tetsu-senpai’s chin. I felt like blood almost spurted out from my ears and my eyes, if I breathe in gently, the bones and muscles in my body seemed like they would burn up. Accompanied by my foggy consciousness and the aches consuming my whole body, I only raised my head slightly after a lot of effort, using only my eyes to look around. The first thing to enter my field of vision was Alice whose face was damp with tears and was running over to me, and then there were the numerous black shirted men who sprang up almost at the same time, the shrugging Yondaime, and also Hiro-san and Major who were holding each other’s hands tightly.
Where is this place? I pondered at the center of the world that was starting to blur.
Should I really stay at this place? Why do I feel like this battle hasn’t ended yet?
However, it seems like—
I’ve won…… Kind of.
Not earning anything, and not protecting anything.
It’s just that I’ve once again reconfirmed the truth that I knew from the start. Even so……
So that means I can probably lie down now, right? With my feet trembling non-stop, my eyelids unbelievably heavy, my face burned as though it was swollen to twice its size, and I couldn’t breathe because of the blood blocking my nose as well.
A certain petite body hugged my leg. I slid my fingers among the silky hair, leaning onto the person’s body and curved my knees to sit on the floor, collapsing onto the floor in the end.
I stood on the rooftop of the school, a concrete floor before my eyes, while the limitless evening sky of the winter reigned at the other side of the short wall. Long-headed poppies that had not bloomed grew in the seams between the tiles, their pale green stems and leaves swaying in the bone-chillingly bitter wind.
There was a warmth by my side, it was Ayaka. She curved her knees and sat by my side, coincidentally touching my arm while putting on her armband on her arm.
”Fujishima-kun, I might be even clumsier and more useless than you. To be honest, I’m really thankful for you, but maybe you don’t really feel it. So, when spring arrives—“
Ahhh, this is— this dream is……
The words that Ayaka did not finish that day.
Just before she jumped off the building, the last day that we underwent club activities while wearing the armband together.
”When spring arrives?”
The question that I could not ask that day. If it’s just a dream, I should probably ask this bravely.
”Yes. When spring arrives, we must speak of the words hidden in each other’s ‘stomachs’.”
”Shouldn’t it be in our ‘hearts’?”
Ayaka looked at me while smiling.
”I have to put it in my stomach because my breasts aren’t large enough.”
No no no, Ayaka probably wouldn’t say such tasteless words. Please be more dignified, my dream.
”After that, speak your words clearly and build normal interpersonal relationships.”
Ayaka stuck out her index finger, saying in a mischievous tone.
”But if you say that, doesn’t it feel like my relationships right now are rather abnormal?”
”Aren’t they abnormal from the start?”
Ayaka hugged her knees while leaning against the wall.
”Fujishima-kun, you probably don’t know what I think about you until now, isn’t that right? It’s the same for me. But since we’re so close to each other, this is really strange.”
Is that so? Even if it were to be Alice and I or with Tetsu-senpai and the other, it feels something like that as well.
Ah, but it might be slightly different with Ayaka. That’s because we began with Ayaka clearly speaking out her request and looking for me. If that’s so, I can……
”— I can speak it out as well.”
”I can speak it out even if spring hasn’t come yet. If it were to be now……”
Because I defeated Tetsu-senpai. Before this, Alice and Ayaka kept worrying about me, were angry at me, didn’t want to care about me, but I am still alive. So the me right now can speak it out.
”I had only Ayaka as a friend before this. If it wasn’t because of Ayaka giving me a hand, I might still be alone. I was really lonely when Ayaka got angry at me and nearly disappeared. And actually, when you disappeared, it was like I was only an empty shell left. I couldn’t believe that I could actually have such a feeling as well.”
Wow, I actually dare to say anything. It’s better if I can tell the Ayaka right now about this when I wake up too.
”— I’m happy…… to have met you, Ayaka.”
My words disappeared, being taken away by the glass-like winter skies.
After some time of silence, Ayaka sighed.
”…… That’s all?”
”Eh? Mnn, erm……”
I looked at Ayaka who looked slightly lonely. The Ayaka right now felt rather unfamiliar to me all of a sudden, it felt somewhat off somewhere. It seemed like something doesn’t match the Ayaka in my memories, but where?”
”However, I just think that you’re always angry at me.”
”There’s no such thing……”
I swallowed the words that I half-said. Unknowingly, the setting sun of winter disappeared, pitch-black darkness surrounding us. There wasn’t a hint of happiness on the side of Ayaka’s face anymore.
”You should honestly tell me for what reason you’re angry for, but you pretend not to care every time, that’s why I’m sad. I’m even unclear of how to handle everything anymore……”
”Aren’t you the one who pretends not to care!?” I couldn’t help but cry out loud. “Why did you leave without telling anyone? You could try to say something to me! Actually jumping down alone like that…… Go……”
I thought in my heart: ‘Don’t say anymore!’, the scratches on my face hurt because of my own voice.
Ayaka’s face sank into darkness. It was not the rooftop under the setting sun anymore, but a small, cramped, and dark room somewhere. The hesitation that was unique to Ayaka who lost her memories filled her eyes.
”…… I don’t remember anymore. I- I’m probably just caring about myself……”
Her answer was rather heartrending. Why did I ask her such a question? And that was also the final mystery that bound me at a dark corner, connecting Alice to this case.
But something like this— it doesn’t matter now, does it? The most important thing is, Ayaka is still here right now.
”But whenever the me right now talks to you, you would look mournful.”
”That’s…… irrelevant to the Ayaka before this. It’s just that you always add a ‘-san’ when talking to me, and act all polite, everyone would feel like that no matter who…… Ahhhh, forget it. All of this doesn’t matter now, anyways……”
”How can that be……” Why can’t we just speak out the thoughts in our hearts frankly? “Ayaka, you don’t have to try to do anything for me. Because you’re already back here, that’s enough.”
Ayaka finally raised her head, glittering beads of water flying in the air.
The words after that started to blur, my back and my abdomen started to ache faintly, and I suddenly felt a coldness as though I was thrown into a pool of water, while I was plunged into darkness once more—
When I opened my eyes, a coffee colored fluffy thing was blocking my sight.
When I tried to push the thing away, bouts of pain immediately came from everywhere on my body, I could only sigh and relax.
”Look, he’s awake! Lyril’s power is indeed great!”
Alice sat by my side, shouting while jumping. Don’t jump anymore, my wounds hurt!
I only raised my head slightly, but I felt like my skin was about to crack to my back, an unbearable pain; it took me quite some effort before I was aware that I was lying on a bed. Alice sat by my side, and kept trying press the medium-sized teddy bear onto my face. What on earth are you trying to do!
Alice looked at me in elation:
”Yondaime used his fastest elbow attack, Hiro let you drink the lotion that’s best for the caring for the skin, while Major used the electric charge of a military stun gun. Everyone tried to use their own way to awaken you, but only my Lyril is the most effective in the end, so you have to thank me properly.”
”Are you people trying to kill me!?”
I sat up forcibly. Full of short bookshelves and cardboard boxes, it was a room full of dust. So it was the study in Hirasaka-gumi. Yondaime sat by the computer table behind Alice, Hiro-san sat at the stacked together cardboard boxes, while Major sat on a solitary cardboard box. And also—
Tetsu-senpai sat on the short shelf with wheels on it by the entrance.
”Though you won, you’re even more badly beaten up.”
I could tell that Tetsu-senpai’s tone was rather bitter, while Major laughed in secret at a side.
”Ah, no, it’s still fine……”
I looked at my own body. My shirt was probably taken off because of being torn and bloodstained, and I could see my arms and chest that were bandaged and stuck full of plasters.
I looked around the room once again, but Ayaka’s silhouette couldn’t be seen. That’s right, it was only a dream. But each and every word that Ayaka said was abnormally realistic. She was already very angry when she heard that I was going to have a fight with Tetsu-senpai, so of course she isn’t going to appear here right now.
I— really defeated Tetsu-senpai?
Victory. Is it true? I really couldn’t be sure.
Yondaime didn’t seem quite happy.
”Gardening Club kid, you’ve been waiting for that chance from the start, haven’t you? What kind of bad uppercut is that? Were you gauging the distance with your first punches?”
”Ah, n- no……”
I looked at my right hand that still felt rather numb.
”I wasn’t gauging the distance, but the location and the angle.”
Yondaime raised one of his brows, turning around to look at Tetsu-senpai.
”So you knew it all along?” Tetsu-senpai said in bitterness. “Ahhh, I understand now. Alice found out about it, didn’t she? Seriously…… I think you probably dug out even the medical report that you can’t understand, didn’t you?”
”Tetsu, it’s better not to discuss this here—“
”Whatever, it’s okay even if people know about this.” Tetsu-senpai stopped Alice from continuing to speak. My heart ached somewhat.
”…… Your eyes, do they have some kind of problem?”
Yondaime inquired. I turned around in surprise, he knows about this? Just looking at the match……
”Is there anything not to know? He couldn’t even dodge a weak attack like that, is there any other reason?”
Tetsu-senpai supported his elbows on his thighs, looking at the floor with his palms pressed together:
”It’s glaucoma. A part of my visual nerves was severed, so I can’t see in a certain range.”
That’s right, that was Tetsu-senpai’s blind spot that Alice found out about. Glaucoma. Because of damage in the visual nerves, as he explained just now, an obstacle that caused the blind spot in our eyes to spread.
”So the coffee-colored gloves were used for this?”
Yondaime’s voice was full of helplessness, and I could only nod weakly in answer.
Actually it was a color for camouflage. I knew long ago that the battle would be done in that dark room with wooden floorboards, the coffee-colored gloves were used to let my fists blend in with the colors of the walls and the floorboards. Of course, doing this is meaningless on other people. But to Tetsu-senpai’s sick eyes—
”…… I’m sorry.”
The words popped out unknowingly from my mouth. Senpai smiled ironically.
”Why are you apologizing? I don’t mind it much.”
But I used senpai’s weakness, and even told Major about this.
I was beaten up and trampled by Tetsu-senpai, even if I crawled here and there, I still continued to lash out with a right uppercut, searching for that ‘spot’— the angle where senpai’s reactions slowed, when the movement of his eyes were abnormal.
Only this was the reason that senpai lost.
And this— was the reason that Tetsu-senpai had to give up on boxing.
So I have to continue to torment senpai about his hurt eyes. That’s because I battled just for this.
To convert the truth that I knew long ago into facts.
”…… The time when the doctors told you about this was probably October four years ago, isn’t that right?”
A bout of pain came on me when I questioned senpai, I think it’s not only a pain from the wound in my mouth.
”Deciding to give up on boxing, and then requesting to drop out from school…… And the request was denied by the boxer that you treat as a father, it should be around October as well, isn’t that right?”
”Actually, senpai, long before Hayano Tomohiko fell into that accident— you wanted to leave school.”
It was a truth that I confirmed with my own fists.
The person who pulled senpai out of a dark swamp and encouraged him to continue to high school was the owner of the boxing hall. When the bridge that connected the two was lost— boxing, senpai chose to leave. Leaving from the boxing hall, leaving from school.
”That should be how things are, isn’t that right? Everyone thought that you dropped out because of causing Hayano Tomohiko to die, but long before that, senpai already……”
”So I’m saying that senpai didn’t cause Hayano To…...”
The girl’s firm voice interrupted my questions.
”This doesn’t matter anymore, Narumi. We know it already.”
I sighed and nodded. We’ve talked this out long ago, it’s the territory of the detective from now on.
”Tetsu, I only want to know one thing. What did Minagawa Kengo try to do? You would probably have the pride of the defeated, answer me everything honestly, right?”
We waited for a long long time, and nobody made any movements in the process.
”…… I don’t know.”
Finally, Tetsu-senpai answered in a small voice.
”It’s true. Minagawa always acted alone, doing something in the dark. He’s that kind of person…… As for what he did, I don’t know.”
”Don’t you know that he often went back to school even after he dropped out?”
”So you’re talking about that. No…… He didn’t go back to school.”
Hearing Tetsu-senpai’s answer, Alice’s hair shook for awhile, and I nearly pounced on him as well. Not the school?
”After dropping out, Minagawa and I met near M High a few times. He said that he was going to a shrine.”
”…… Shrine? Do you mean the shrine next to M High?”
”Probably? I don’t know about the rest.”
To the shrine? For what? To visit someone’s grave? But Hayno Tomohiko’s greave is somewhere else…… What is with this?
”His motive— was it the same as you all?”
Alice stared at somewhere near Tetsu-senpai’s forehead. After that, she walked down her bed, walking towards senpai with the bear in her hands.
”I understand. The questions end now, and we don’t need to cut off all relationships. Let us use our unique privileges as NEETs— using movements as light as Karyoubinga to restore our former friendship!”
Alice extended a small hand to Tetsu-senpai. Seeing this scene, everyone’s expression seemed to relax in an instant. Yondaime, Major, Hiro-san— and even Tetsu-senpai.
After glancing at her hand, Tetsu-senpai turned away and said:
”What are you talking about? What cutting off relationships? How could I just leave an interesting kid like you? Even if you did cut off relationships with me that time, I would still visit you at your place!”
”— W- w- what are you talking about!? You rotten egg!”
The furious Alice kept bashing the small teddy bear onto Tetsu-senpai’s face.
”I- I thought of so much for you, and even prepared to shake hands to resolve our previous misunderstandings, but you…... Has your conduct and sensitivity been covered by the smoke in the pachinko shop, buried in the nicotine!? This is too annoying! You should send your brain away from dry cleaning……!”
”Ah— Mnn— Okay, okay.” Tetsu-senpai stood up and patted Alice’s head. “It’s my fault, so can you please let me go home? I’m bearing a two-thousandth part of Narumi’s injuries after all.”
Laughter finally rang out, it was Hiro-san and Major. Only Alice was still extremely annoyed.
”Tetsu, I wasn’t finished yet. You kneel there first, I must teach you a good lesson—“
”That’s right, Yondaime, sorry for bothering you.”
”There’s no next time. Think of something yourselves if you get into a fight next time.”
The two talked over Alice’s head, and then Tetsu-senpai opened the study door and walked out.
”Hey, shouldn’t we go back soon? Min-san is probably very worried.”
Hiro-san pulled Alice’s hand, while Major started to stuff things into his backpack.
”Really! Whatever, I’ll say the rest back at the office. Narumi, you can probably walk now, right? So why don’t you hurry up and wear your shirt to prepare to go back!?”
What a reckless person. But since Yondaime already kicked me off the bed, I could only put on my T-shirt, putting on my shoes with my brows furrowed. This is bad, with the muscle pains tomorrow, I would probably be in so much pain that it would feel like hell, wouldn’t I?
As we were about to get kicked out forcibly by Yondaime, Alice looked around the cramped room full of black shirted men.
”…… Mnn? Where had Ayaka gone to?”
”Erm…… She ran out just now.”
Rocky looked rather apologetic.
”Ah…… So Ayaka came before this!?”
Hearing my surprised voice, Alice answered in an unfazed tone:
”Then who do you think bandaged you? Really……”
I touched my cheeks that were stuck full of plasters.
…… Was that just a dream?
Ayaka’s voice, Ayaka’s words, and my answer.
At that moment, I suddenly recalled the strangeness that I felt in the dream, and immediately rushed forward to ask Alice.
”Oi oi, was Ayaka wearing an armband? It’s black in color.”
Annoyance was written on Alice’s face, and Hiro-san answered instead.
”That’s right, she said that she ran over here right after club activities ended.”
I was speechless. So the thing that I felt odd about was this. Because on the evening that day— the last time Ayaka met me on the rooftop before she jumped off the building, she handed the armband to me.
But in the dream, she kept wearing the armband. If so, perhaps that wasn’t a dream—
Ayaka still came to see me, and even bandaged me, and then……
The next morning, Ayaka did not come to school, and nobody answered when I dialed her phone number. I had an uneasy premonition, and was thinking if I should call her house and ask, so I walked towards the staffroom. Coincidentally, I met Sayuri-sensei who looked extremely uneasy in the corridors, and almost even bumped into her.
”AH, Fu- Fujishima-kun— what’s with all those injuries!? What happened to you!? Your whole appearance changed!”
”Eh? Ah, it’s nothing, no big deal at all.”
”How can this be no big deal!? Oh my god, they turned purple already!”
”Ouch! Please don’t touch me, no, erm…… Sensei, are you okay?”
”Eh? Erm…… Well…… Let me ask you this, did Shinozaki-san contact you?”
Cold sweat poured down my back.
”I heard that she didn’t go home from yesterday.”
Translator's Notes and References
- One of the Five Great Wisdom Kings, whose name comes from the vanquishment of greed, hatred and over-zealousness
- A bird deity in Buddhism that is said to be born in snowy mountains, and can make elegant, beautiful sounds even in its shell. It is also often used as decoration on copper mirror frames, buildings and so on when Buddhism entered China.
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