Kamisama no Memochou:Volume 4 Chapter 1
Farewell, red-haired alien. Put in lots of love in the rocket that you made— “Rocket Dive” hide/ Hotei Tomoyasu
When a long-awaited client arrived at the agency, I was having a fierce battle with Alice, and thus did not notice anyone enter.
”You actually wished to bathe my good friends, causing them to suffer the third-most cruelest method of torture in this world! Though I have long known that you are a cold, unjust person, I never thought that it was actually serious till this extent!”
Standing on her bed in the six tsubo room, Alice looked just like Nio as her luscious hair that was like black honey fluttered, while her skin so white that it looked sickly was slightly flushed in anger. Teddy bears, dolphins, kittens, and large quantities of other dolls were collapsed on the sheets. The reason that she was so agitated was just because I asked her if I should wash the dolls. Though she is a self-proclaimed detective, always speaking a huge ton of principles, actually, her personality is as her appearance suggests, that of a vexatious little girl.
”Then what about the second and the first?”
If I seriously answer her complaints, I might continue to be terribly scolded, so I directly changed the topic.
”The second-most cruelest thing to endure is to answer questions by foolish people. The cruelest thing would be to endure the fact that the foolish person is actually my assistant!”
”Alright, I’m sorry. So that you won’t suffer anymore, I’ll just take the ice cream that Min-san made back.”
”Why didn’t you say so earlier.” Alice jumped down from the bed and ran towards me. “You actually kept silent all this time, how despicable.”
”Is this really okay? Min-san said ’Alice will happily dash down from the bed if you use ice cream as bait, and you can use that opportunity to take the dolls and the sheets’. It really turned out as she said.”
Alice sat at the edge of the bed, shaking her legs repeatedly while gnashing her teeth. Taking that chance, I placed the cup containing the ice cream into the fridge, taking out a can of Dr. Pepper by the way.
”In any case, my good friends and the sheets are not dirty at all. Look, they are as new as the moon when it was first born.”
”It indeed appears to be so, but since it’s almost summer now, you probably sweated when you were sleeping.”
”If you really don’t believe it, just sniff it and you’ll see.”
I almost dropped the Dr. Pepper that I was about to open onto the floor.
”No…… Wait a minute, what are you talking about?”
”You’re the one who said that they’re dirty, so you have the obligation to prove that they are dirty. Hurry up and prove it!”
Alice stepped on my thigh as I was coincidentally kneeling before the sheets to prevent me from escaping and shoved a huge teddy bear into my face.
”S- Stop that!”
”Just say it, how does it smell like?”
I really couldn’t say something like ’It smells like Alice’. As I fell on my back in near suffocation, my gaze met the sharp, wolf-like eyes above me.
”What the heck are you doing?”
I immediately sprang up. As the speed when I raised my knees while standing up was too fast, I accidentally toppled Alice, causing her to protest loudly, but I really didn’t have the time to care.
”W- W- When did you arrive? When did you start watching us?”
I couldn’t help but kneel down in front of Yondaime. The leader of the young yakuza gang was clad in clothes for the summer— black, webbed vest on his upper torso that showed skin, and a pair of painted loose denim pants.
”Probably from the time you started to sniff the sheets.”
”I did not sniff the sheets!”
”Though I am not sure what you two are here for, I welcome you to help chase the fussy assistant before me away.” Alice sat on the sheets once again. Two? I turned my attention behind Yondaime and saw a person with slightly dyed hair smiling at me with his pearly teeth.
”Even Hiro-san is here. Y- You saw it as well?”
With a wry smile on his face, Hiro-san walked to Yondaime’s side. He was wearing clothes with a daring style as well, with a chili red T-shirt and a dazzling gold necklace on his neck that would make anyone think that he’s a gigolo on first sight.
”It seemed like you were having fun, so we didn’t want to disturb you.”
”If it seemed so fun, please change places with me!”
”But isn’t that Narumi-kun’s privilege?” What kind of privilege is that! I have to worry about Alice’s baths, wash her clothes, feed her and so on. I would have quit long ago if I could!
”Just sniffing it doesn’t really matter, but washing my clothes is a definite no. Hiro, it’s the same for you!”
”Erm…… Alice, that isn’t so……”
Hiro-san approached the bed by my side, squatting down by Alice.
”I suggest you don’t let Narumi-kun sniff even the smell of yourself.”
What is this guy talking about? From just now, Yondaime’s gaze that was fierce like that of a wild wolf, and was narrowed so much that it almost pierced through my face. Can we please not continue to discuss this topic?
”Why not? Narumi is already so slow that I cannot let him comprehend with words. What I mean is that I wish to turn the words that I wish to speak of into data, uploading it into his brain after connecting a USB cable to his nostrils.”
”No, think about it. Aren’t the pajamas and sheets things that Alice is always in contact with?”
”So aren’t the dolls like another part of Alice as well?”
”How will you feel if you let Narumi-kun sniff the smell of your skin directly?”
I was completely speechless, while Alice’s face underwent different shades of red, and had the vibrance of a red chili in the end.
”Narumi! You shameless fellow!”
’The shameless one should be you!” And you only realized that after people explained it so clearly to you!?
When I retorted, I was immediately assaulted with numerous cans of Dr. Pepper. Unable to face the attack, I had no other choice but to hide behind Yondaime. Having supernatural reflexes, the wolf slammed all the empty cans away with only one hand.
”Stop playing the fool. Hiro, don’t start a lesson of morals and ethics at this time. I am here for official business.”
”Ahhh, that’s right, I almost forgot.”
Hiro-san answered while pressing on Alice’s shoulder with his hand…… Official business?
”It’s best if it is serious work!” Alice spoke in a furious tone. Steam almost puffed out from her face. “Please continue after chasing that shameless rogue out of my office!”
Why am I scolded to this extent……?
”That’s fine. Yondaime said that he wants to borrow Narumi-kun for awhile. It might take up the whole summer vacation.”
The steam suddenly disappeared from Alice’s face without a trace, while her dancing black hair drooped on the sheets as well.
”…… You wish to borrow Narumi? Why?”
”I spoke of this to you before this. I accepted the job of doing promotion for an indie band.”
Yondaime forcefully pushed me aside and walked into the bedroom to explain.
”At the end of August, they will have a few continuous concerts in Tokyo.”
”Ahh…… Would it be that band? I can’t remember the name for now, but it should be the one whose members are all girls.”
I couldn’t help but interrupt.
”See, Narumi-kun indeed knows of it as well.” Hiro-san approached me. “There are already quite a lot of people discussing this band on the internet now.”
I often saw the Mad Movie that was released as a promotional video on the official website, but since I never heard of the original songs in the first place, it’s really nothing to boast of.
”…… Are you referring to this?”
Alice’s fingers moved quickly on the keyboard, showing the results of her search on one of the monitors that covered the walls. As expected of the NEET detective who holds the massive amount of information floating in the internet sea in her weak hands, she’s absolutely unbeatable if she’s in an online state. I think I watched the video played as well. It was a pv that gave a deep impression to the people viewing it. The female lead singer was strumming a black Gibson Les Paul guitar in the video.
”I never thought that Yondaime would actually accept jobs in the entertainment industry as well. What in the world is happening?”
”Stop talking as if I work because of my interests. This is business.”
Yondaime crossed his arms in displeasure, ramming the back of his head into the wall.
”We can’t earn our livings just by being a delinquent. It’ll be over if we don’t expand our business. I’ve started a new company for event coordination, and I’m going to use this as a stepping stone.”
I couldn’t help but start to listen closely. Yondaime is the king of the NEETs in this city, but his true identity is that of a true businessman.
”The guys in our gang are completely useless in matters like this, so it’s not enough when I am doing this alone. I’m directly borrowing Hiro, but since the Gardening Club kid is Alice’s only assistant, I’d still have to ask.”
”Well, I understand the reason that you’re borrowing Hiro-san for, but why are you using me as well?”
Hiro-san is really good at coping with girls. If Yondaime wishes to promote the indie band by word, Hiro-san would be the prime candidate. But what about me?
”I’m thinking of doing promotion using the internet and contact with DJs, but there aren’t any other people I know that are good in this.”
”Oh, so that’s why you’re here?”
Indeed, I’m slightly more knowledgeable about public culture. Though there is no match for Alice on the internet, the fact that she doesn’t have any enemies means that she doesn’t have any companions as well. The only person left would be me.
”Does that mean that you wish to dispatch Narumi to various places during the whole summer break?”
”That’s the main gist of it.”
”Don’t joke with me, who will do the chores in my office then?”
Didn’t you just ask people to chase or kick me out of here?
”It isn’t like he wouldn’t come back. Wouldn’t he still be your assistant when school starts?”
It feels like Alice isn’t that quick-witted today, as her opponent kept getting the upper hand.
”Why must you use both Hiro and Narumi? Is it not just an indie band? Even if there is not too much funds, don't they know any cheap event coordinators?”
”The event this time will definitely be a hit, so I’m hoping that a veteran won’t barge in from the start, and let us handle all the promotions.”
Hearing such forceful statements, Hiro-san and I couldn’t help but stare at Yondaime’s face. Though his lips were tightly closed while his eyes were narrowed in a line as usual, it was like there were transparent flames surrounding him, dazzling all of us.
”Why are you so certain that they will be a hit?” Alice asked with her brows furrowed while shaking her head.
”You’ll know when you listen to them. Not the music played on the net, but the recording of a live concert rehearsal.”
After saying that, Yondaime immediately took out something from his pocket and tossed it to Alice. As the sports skills of the girl was equal to zero, of course it’s impossible for her to catch it. Thus, the tiny object hammered on her forehead, dropping onto a pile of dolls after that— it was a USB stick.
”Barbarian! Why did you not just hand it to me?” Alice furiously plugged in the USB stick.
It was not until that moment that day that I noticed the speakers and amplifiers installed in the NEET Detective Agency. When the room was filled with pink noise that was like hot steam, I noticed two huge sound sources at the two sides of the walls covered with black machines. What followed was the strong feedback of the resonance between a Les Paul electric guitar and the Marshal amplifiers.
A feeling as though one was beaten up by music— such a thing really did exist.
There were vibrations that felt as though they were going to gorge out one’s heart. Unclear mumblings turned into dream-like prayers, the singing voice dashed in a vast, endless wilderness. A guitar riff that was cruel at times, and sweetly cuts one’s flesh and body at times.
The music that overwhelmed me that time was something like that.
It was just after noon when Yondaime, Hiro-san and I walked out of the detective agency. The burning sun of the early summer mercilessly roasted the roads between the long buildings.
”Haven’t you planned an outdoor concert or the like? It seems like this summer will have a strong feeling of summer.”
Hiro-san turned around to ask Yondaime while walking down the emergency backstairs.
”Where can we plan them?”
”At the Hibiya theatre, perhaps?”
”Isn’t it a bit too late to reserve the Hibiya theatre?”
The Hibiya Outdoors Theatre is a sacred ground for outdoor concerts. However, since it is only open to the public on weekends, the reservation schedule is so full that we can only use it next year if we book it now.
”Hmmm, that’s a pity. The band really is—“
Hiro-san muttered in a singsong voice.
”Wish I could hear it outdoors…… It would be exhilarating.”
I somewhat understood what Hiro-san meant. Being immersed in that song with our backs to the sun of real summer that has the color of fresh blood, it would probably be a whole three days before we could return to reality. And I finally understood why Yondaime was so resolute about this as well.
Besides, even Alice fell into a silence after listening to the recording of the rehearsal, agreeing to rent me out after that.
The song is the real thing.
”I will be responsible if it is not successful.”
Yondaime shifted his gaze opposite to the railings. They were not words that one can easily speak of.
After that, we walked to the empty space between the buildings below the emergency backstairs and started a tactical meeting after sitting on the beer crates, old tires and gas tanks surrounding a decaying wooden stand. Large amount of steam because of the simmering ramen soup puffed out of the kitchen backdoor, causing the surroundings to become slightly hot and blurry. The summer heat was really overwhelming.
”There is one other thing that I didn’t mention to Alice just now,” Yondaime’s tone suddenly turned heavy. “…… We caught a whiff of dispute. It’s very possible that conflicts will happen.”
”The job was originally taken by other event coordinators, a rotten organization supported by a yakuza gang known as Yanagihara-kai. As they were sloppy with their work, the head of the band broke the contract in a rage and brought the case to me.”
Whoa! That wouldn’t just be a whiff of dispute, the thick smoke of battle could already be felt.
”Among the venues that we reserved, one of them can’t be used now. It seems like they’re deliberately looking for trouble.”
”Is that really okay? The flames of battle are already lit.”
”Though Yanagihara-kai isn’t getting involved personally, the situation is still rather unfavorable. That’s why I’m giving you the request.”
Which means, the detective will have to get involved in the most critical moment, is that so?
”If so, won’t telling Alice from the start be more appropriate?”
”If I really did that— disregard Hiro for the moment, it is largely probable that she won’t let me borrow you. That girl worries too much, after all.”
Would she really be that worried? But since the yakuza is involved this time as well, it indeed feels somewhat dangerous……
”I’m not really suited for a job like this as well, but it doesn’t seem like you’re worried about me.”
”No one will be worried of you or have expectations of you. A gigolo should just do as a gigolo does.”
”Fine, fine. Then I’ll just have to poke around for news at the clubs nearby as usual, right?”
”There will be no need for that. You don’t need to go to the shops. Just go look for any woman to find out information. We aren’t clear which type of people knows about the band yet.”
”Oi oi, you’re still at this level though there’s only two months left? Aren’t they going to release an album as well?”
”Didn’t I tell you that I accepted the case recently? It can’t be helped!”
”Erm…… Then what about me?” I couldn’t speak up because of the rapid-fire conversation of the two, so I could only interrupt weakly. Yondaime glared at me.
”Go search for people similar to DJs who have their own websites or are doing a web radio.”
”Seems to be a refined, exhausting job……”
”Let’s talk about your payment before this…… Would a monthly salary be okay?”
”Huh…… Ah, it’s fine.”
”As expected of Yondaime, you plan your finances really carefully. As expected of a person from Kansai.”
”It’s irrelevant to Kansai. It’s just that the concept of money of you NEETs is too bad.”
The others assume that Yondaime comes from a yakuza family, but it is said that his true identity before this was a successor of a prestigious family of businessmen in Osaka. Though he was long chased out of the family, the blood flowing in his veins is still that of a businessman’s.
After hearing the lucrative salary that Yondaime spoke of, I gave him my okay while feeling shocked. Though the two had long wandered out of the back alley, I still sat blankly on the large steel bucket with my head drooped for quite some time.
”Sorry, sorry. It’s a bit late for me to take your orders— Hmm?”
The kitchen backdoor opened, while the short-haired person wearing the cute expression of a deer and her sailor’s uniform for summer who emerged was Ayaka. Along with the steam that flowed out of the kitchen, her black apron fluttered as well.
”Aren’t Hiro-san and Yondaime here?”
”Ahh, yes. They said that they still have work to do, so they already left.”
”NEETs have work?” That’s right, they have work though they’re obviously NEETs. “In the end, Fujishima-kun is hanging out here as a NEET reserve even though the summer break hasn’t officially started? Do you want to eat anything?”
”Don’t say that I’m a NEET reserve again! And I don’t have any appetite right now.”
”What’s wrong? Ah, I know. You were given a huge scolding by Alice when you wanted to collect her dirty clothes just now, isn’t that right? I’m telling you that there’s a technique for it. Min-san taught me about it before this. The back of Alice’s neck is especially weak. You can just hug her from behind and blow on it, and use the chance to take off her pajamas and sheets. Eh? Fujishima-kun, are you listening?”
”Yes, yes……” That’s assuming I can do something like that!
”Why is it that you seem listless about life in general? It seems more serious than usual.”
”Your statement of life in general is redundant!”
”Yes, that’s right. I’m sorry! It is the truth after all, so it’s fine even if I don’t say it.” Hey! Isn’t that way of putting it way crueler!
”Well, that’s not it…… Ayaka, how much is your hourly salary at Hanamaru Ramen? Is it about the same as me?”
That moment, a tall female walked out after pushing Ayaka aside. With a ponytail and a fierce expression on her face, she wore a gray tank top that showed her firm arms. It was the owner of Hanamaru Ramen, Min-san.
”850 yen. Is other people’s wages any of your concern?”
”W- Why is it 150 yen more than mine?”
”Ehh? You actually have the nerve to ask for the reason? Don’t you remember how many bowls you broke? As I recall, didn’t you once spill a bowl with ramen in it? Will you only remember if I spill hot soup on your head?”
”No, no, no…… I’m sorry.”
”Ah— So it’s because of Fujishima-kun that the apron is so filthy. The stain already seeped in and can’t be removed anymore.”
In a daze, I stared at the apron on Ayaka, whose cheeks were puffed out. The white logo with ‘Hanamaru Ramen’ printed on it was dyed the color of coffee, almost blending in with the surrounding black cloth. As I recall, I spilled the soup about twice……
Sigh, it’s just 150 yen anyways, so it’s no big deal. Besides, the daily salary that Yondaime is going to pay me can almost hire five Ayakas and still have some money left. It was for that reason that I was assailed by a strange sense of emptiness.
However, that might be quite reasonable— Because Yondaime is actually making a large gamble. He said that the starting event coordination was too sloppy, causing the lead singer of the band to fly into a rage, firing the original event coordinator, sending the case directly to Yondaime on the way. Yondaime even helped out with the payment after taking a fancy to their vigor. So I believe the high salary unmatched with my identity should probably be a kind of investment as well. It’s not like the norm, when one gauges how capable you are and pays you that much, but instead, it means that he’s giving you so much money, and that’s why you have to raise your capability and use it on work— the theory would be something like that.
The said lifestyle of ‘daring to risk’ is one that I cannot comprehend in my whole life. When I think about it, I might not even have the rights to be a NEET.
”By the way, did you wash the sheets and dolls for Alice?”
Min-san knocked on my head, dragging me out from my delusions.
”Ah— Sorry. As she flew in a rage just now, I had no other choice but to retreat temporarily.”
”Do you have any self-consciousness? You have no use at all besides tending to Alice’s troublesome needs!”
So sorry for still having the nerve to be alive.
”There’s no such thing! Fujishima-kun is always useful each time the roast pork brined god knows when appears in the fridge, because his stomach can stand the stench.”
So sorry for actually accepting hourly salary as high as 700 yen…… Though I was already fired. Being utterly shamed, I could only stand up silently and walk towards the emergency backstairs once more.
Before having any expectations or being surprised because of Yondaime’s salary, I think it’s better to finish my own work first, because I am an assistant detective.
When I held the railings, I suddenly thought of a critical question—
…… Is washing clothes part of an assistant’s job?
When I arrived at the platform between the first floor and the second, seemingly dangerous sounds of machines and water came from above, while noises of something being hit could be heard as well, with the sounds of moaning closely following. Is it Alice? I hurriedly ran up the stairs. When I saw two knee-high socks on slender feet poking out of the washing machine in front of room 308 while flailing frantically, I couldn’t help but make an odd cry, and quickly ran over. As my whole being fell into confusion that time, I actually didn’t even think of turning off the power switch, directly pulling out the plug in the end so that the machine would stop. Then, I immediately grabbed Alice’s waist, pulling her out from the tank.
”Alice! Oi, Alice!”
When I pushed away the water-sodden, long, black hair, the face of Alice, who was seeing stars, appeared.
”Uu- Uuuuuuuuuuu…… The water…… The water……”
”It’s okay now, you can breathe!”
Alice finally stopped struggling after I wiped away the pink detergent on Alice’s cheeks and gently patted her back. She forcefully hugged me, panting repeatedly before my chest.
”……. Th- This is- the largest crisis- in my whole life…… The continually expanding Sahara desert, the emperor penguins that lost their home and the Middle East that is currently under air assault, all of the sorrows in the world that I am unable to save flashed past my mind in an instant.”
”You should think of a way to climb out before thinking of these! I never heard of anyone who drowned in their own washing machine!”
”Please consider my wrists first. In such a posture, how can I have the energy to raise near to half of my weight?”
And you’re actually saying that in a noble manner?
”Speaking of which, what on earth are you doing in the washing machine?”
”Washing my clothes, of course!”
Alice suddenly flung her hair to her back and sat down, starting to rock her body after pushing me aside. The water on her continued to drip on the surrounding pajamas, towels and sheets.
”W- Who would allow a rogue like you…… T- To manage the items that had contact with my skin? I realize that this is a largely immoral mistake! In the future, I will manage it by myself!”
You only realized that now? I always felt troubled about that!
”I really don’t want to see an accident like that happen every time, so it’s better if I handle the clothes. Alice, it won’t do for you.”
”What are you talking about, don’t look down on me. I know how to operate a primitive machine like this as well!”
”You have no idea how to use it at all, even your height isn’t enough!”
Perhaps that was the reason she fell into the washing machine? Though it’s rather unbelievable, I really cannot think of any other reason.
”Plus, you can’t keep adding the fabric softener from the start. You’ll have to add it after adding water.
Looking just like a drowned rat, Alice sat on the corridors with her whole face red while she flailed her hands in indignation.
”E- Even so, how can you touch my clothes……”
”No, erm…… I won’t especially sniff if they have a smell or not.”
”Well of course!”
Alice forcefully flung my hands away, trying to pick up the clothes scattered on the floor.
”Just let me handle this. How about you go take a bath and change your clothes?”
”I am planning to do so even if you did not say that. Call Ayaka here for me!”
As the NEET detective who only had her sharp tongue left is not good at it, that would be Ayaka’s job. When I stood up while sighing, Alice ran by the washing machine with her face pale.
The teddy bear of moderate size that she would always hold when she goes out rolled by the washing machine. Alice immediately noticed that the stitches on its head were already loose when she picked it up, while one of the buttons that formed its eyes was missing. Perhaps it was caused when she almost fell into the machine?
”Hurry up and fetch Yondaime, hurry!”
Nearly bursting into tears, Alice hugged her bear while shouting loudly.
Disregarding the incident for the moment, my journey of walking the Yamanote Line began from the next day.
Though the band hasn’t released any albums, all of the part time musicians that I came in contact with through the internet answered ‘Yes, I know them’, and caught the bait just like that. What an unbelievably great network age.
We had a meeting with Yondaime until late at night, excluding the people who just want to look at pretty girls, dismissing the methods that are bad for our finances, we decided on the target of our request just like that.
”These people will have a function in July, so we can request to perform with them.”
”But they have a parent company supporting them, so it’s somewhat difficult.”
”You’re thinking of pocketing the profits alone again……”
”Well of course! It’s meaningless if we don’t get all the profits.”
”But merchandises other than the songs might cause the image of the band to drop, so we should be more careful about this. If so, what do you think about selling the songs on a USB stick?”
”I’ll have to calculate for a bit.”
I spoke of anything that came to mind. Though they were dismissed by Yondaime one by one, I feel that it’s quite interesting for some reason. It might just be my illusion, thinking that I’m doing a meaningful job.
How good would it be if the location of our discussion isn’t at the office of Hirasaka-gumi. The room that we used as a conference room was the storeroom/ lounge/ computer room at the bottom layer of the office. Some members gathered at the anteroom outside while watching us chatter. To be honest, that’s really quite vexing.
”As expected of Aniki, he keeps talking about things that we don’t understand with Sou-san.”
”Look, he can talk while typing! Absolutely god-like!”
”Look, he’s using goggle search as well!” “We couldn’t do it even after three hours!”
Idiotic conversation like that kept coming in from the crack of the door. Can you guys please be silent? And also, it’s not goggle, but google.
”Don’t you need to give them any work?”
So that the guys behind me won’t hear it, I asked Yondaime softly, while he just frowned.
”…… They’re probably just handling the decorations, security and trash collection there!” Whoa! He completely treated them as the people doing odd jobs.
”Oi! You guys, stop making noise over there! Hurry up and take a look at the handbook!” Yondaime roared at the door.
”Understood! Very sorry!”
Though the door was closed, the voices could still be heard.
”Listen, you can’t take any action even if detestable guests arrive. Hurry up and practice.”
That was the voice of one of Yondaime’s generals, Rocky.
”Okay, you’ll act as the guest.” “Understood!” Say something in a detestable manner!” “Oi, I want to take a dump, where’s the toilet?” “Do it in your mouth!” “Oi, what do you mean by doing that!”
Yondaime and I exchanged looks, and sighed in turn. Would the event this time be okay?
”I’m going home for a moment. I’ll leave those idiots to you.”
Yondaime stood up and put on his coat. After glancing at the clock on the monitor, I found that the date had already changed.
”You’re leaving me here alone? Those people are still here! Those guys would ask me about kanji that they can’t read every ten minutes, but you’re asking me to face them alone?”
After I cried out in a tone that even I felt embarrassed for, Yondaime answered with his brows furrowed:
”Don’t you have a lot of emails to reply to? And I still have yet to finish the job that Alice asked me to do.”
”Ah, ahhhh……. So it’s that?”
Surprisingly, Yondaime’s interest was in sewing, while his skills would awe even professional-level specialists. The job that was given priority over work was actually the fixing of a small teddy bear.
”The extent of the damage is quite serious, and I couldn’t find a suitable eye for the button as well. Tell Alice that it might be a bit knotty.”
After saying that, the busy yakuza leader walked out of the study. When I returned to the computer while sighing, I heard the small voice of Yondaime’s other general, Pole, coming from the other side of the incompletely closed door.
”Sou-san, the livehouse of Ikebukuro called just now.”
”Is there trouble?”
”They say that someone keeps asking the employees about us. I heard that they wanted to chase him away, but he protested.”
”…… A grunt from Yanagihara-kai? Isn’t there a handbook for dealing with yakuzas? Spread it out.”
”No, well— I heard that they’re kids about the same age as us. And there were about five or six of them.”
Yondaime narrowed his eyes in consideration, and opened the door all of a sudden. While unintentionally standing up to peek, I was so startled by the sudden action that I bumped into the bedstead behind me.
”What are you being so furtive for? This isn’t completely unrelated to you, so listen closely.”
”Ehh, ah, erm…… Sorry.”
That moment, the crowd of black shirted men who were originally fooling around behind the door looked at me solemnly.
”Those guys still dare to look for trouble even when they know that Hirasaka-gumi is in charge, huh?” Yondaime spoke.
”They even spoke of Sou-san, my and a few others’ name, and kept asking on.”
”Completely out of the situation!” “They have guts!” “To heck with him, just let me teach him a lesson!”
While listening to the annoyed voices of his underlings, Yondaime thought while pressing a fist on his forehead.
”Daring to look for trouble even though they know of our names, such a gang shouldn’t exist now.”
The black shirted men then looked like castrated dogs, falling silent at the same time.
”…… That’s true.” Rocky answered in a low voice. “People like that should have been disposed of by Sou-san long ago.”
”I didn’t do it alone—“
”— Disregard this matter for now. In any case, Gardening Club kid, you’ll have to be careful as well. You’re just a newbie, so don’t get involved if there’s anything wrong. Just do your job properly.”
I hesitated for a moment, but still nodded in response. What is this? Why did Yondaime hesitate just now……?
As Yondaime said just now, I told myself to just focus on my own jobs, and walked out of the study after that.
After class ended next day, I started to interview various livehouses, clubs and advertising companies. The design of all the advertisements of the whole event was handed to the professionals, but the management of the website fell on my shoulders for some reason. How should I say this, I really can’t face this as though I’m preparing for a school festival anymore. As my salary is so high, I can’t be sloppy when doing things as well.
Yondaime said: “If let web designers do it, they would usually just fill the website with a huge ton of glamorous Flash effects, causing the servers to shoulder a heavy burden. I hate that, so I’m putting you in charge of that.” Though it was somewhat of a forced reason, I agree with him more or less.
Just like that, from the Kichijiyou temple from the west to Ueno at the east, the range of my job covered the whole Tokyo. The busy days caused me to feel that I might be able to earn a living from a normal job even if I don’t become a NEET in the future.
The first time that I met Renji-san would be on a Friday in the middle of that overwhelmingly busy July.
I arrived at Harajuku on the evening that day. During the continuous concerts held on the end of August, the event that gathered the most attention was the Harajuku concert. Thus, more work had to be done on the layout there and the like. The venue was located at a space between a livehouse and a concert hall at a building in Meiji Road. I was actually planning to just have a look and take some photos.
After entering the entrance that used silver and blue as a keynote, the lively sounds of a loud guitar riff directly pierced through the skin on my whole body. The lit stage was like an aquarium at night, while repeatedly waving outlines of hands and hair of the audience could be seen as the arrogant-looking band members wearing clothes of Harajuku fashion were singing on the stage loudly.
I approached the bar surrounded in pillars of white light and shouted out my order of tomato juice. When I took out my digital camera, a young female worker looked at me in displeasure.
”It is forbidden for photos be taken here!”
”I have permission!”
”What—? What did you say?”
”I’m Fujishima who called yesterday! Can you call the chief over here?”
”I’m telling you that taking photos here isn’t permitted! We forbid that!”
”But I have special permission!”
Because of the loud performance, we couldn’t hear each other clearly. As the two of us were trying in vain to converse, I clearly heard that voice through the din in the dark livehouse.
”I’m tellin’ ya that my memory ain’t that good, so sorry for that. How are ya related to me again?”
I immediately turned around.
Part of his hair was highlighted like a streak of lightning, and complemented with his tall figure, he could be clearly seen even in the darkness of the livehouse. With his goggles shaped shades and confident smile, he was a sharp looking man. He would be about twenty, I suppose?
”Hmm, did I owe ya money or somethin’? Or did I miss an appointment with ya?”
”Stop faking!” “We remember it quite well!” “You broke someone’s nose, and it hasn’t recovered till now!”
Sounds of abuse rang. The ones who surrounded the man in shades were a bunch of vicious looking people whose hair were bleached too much and their faces were full of piercings.
”I’m tellin’ ya that the last time I came here was five years ago! Ya don’t remember who the prime minister five years ago was, do ya? Anyways, being able to meet here is some kinda fate as well, so why don’t we mend our ties? I’ll treat ya.”
He spoke in a Kansai slang that was rather memorable for some reason. After that, the man in shades approached after weaving through the crowd. I hastily made space for him.
”Gimme four cups of whiskey with water.”
The waitress at the counter served him just that with a look of annoyance.
”Oi, stop that pretense!” “What are you running for!” “Get out!”
The troublesome trio still persisted, chasing him through the crowd.
”Well well, why don’t we just be friends after havin’ a cuppa beer?”
Is there something wrong with his brains? Is this really the time to say a thing like this? So that I wouldn’t get involved, I decided to look for the person in charge by myself, and thus left the conversation of the person with Kansai slang at the bar that was almost swallowed by darkness.
At that moment, the word ‘Hirasaka’ came into my ears. I indeed heard that. I turned around and saw that the person in shades and the thugs in piercings were still in an argument at the other side of the crowd. Which?
Which of them said it? Does Hirasaka refer to Hirasaka-gumi?
As I knew Hirasaka-gumi for quite some time now, I recognize all of the faces of the members. Thus, I could quickly confirm that all of the four are not members of the gang. However, since Yondaime’s network of contacts is so wide and Harajuku is his territory as well, they might be people related to the gang.
Uh oh. What if they really are related? If people related to Hirasaka-gumi make trouble at the venue of the concert, all of Yondaime’s efforts would go to waste.
This time, I clearly heard the word ‘Hirasaka’ from one of the men in piercings, but the latter part of their conversation was doused by the performance. I made an effort to push the crowd away, hoping to get closer to the counter.
”You bastard!” “Stop talking glib—“
Just when the man speaking in Kansai slang held a cup of beer in both hands, two of the men in piercings tried to grab him that instant. The sound like the bursting of a paper balloon was made simultaneously by the two men, and they crouched down in agony while holding their right hands with their left. Screams echoed all around, while the side of the guy with Kansai slang was naturally vacated. I really couldn’t believe what my eyes saw— using a high side-spin with overwhelming precision, the man kicked the palms of the two men who rushed over, while the more terrifying thing was that not even half a drop of beer in his hands spilled out.
”Whoops. My leg moved by itself. Are ya okay? Forgive me!”
The man with Kansai slang placed the glasses back onto the bar, and was planning to squat down by the two men.
”T- That hurts!” “Are my fingers broken……” “Y- You bastard!”
The remaining thug pushed away his companions, planning to hit the shoulders of the man with Kansai slang. That moment, I saw it. The Kansai slang guy rose while pulling his sunglasses down to this neck position.
It was a gaze as cold as steel that underwent numerous hardships.
Uh oh, that was my immediate instinct.
I didn’t really think of a plan, but my legs moved by themselves. When a person’s thoughts fall into confusion at the moment he is cornered, he might make the most suitable judgment instead, while that was what happened to me. I poured the tomato juice I was holding onto the Kansai slang guy’s chest from a side.
”—Nooaaaaaaaaaa?” The Kansai slang guy made an odd screech, while the man in piercings jumped backwards in fright. At that instant, I rushed to the middle of the two.
”Ahhh, s- s- s- s- sorry, are you okay?”
I noticed that the speed of my speech became quite rapid as well.
”Are you wet? You’re probably drenched huh my apologies I’ll compensate you for this so please follow me outside, outside!”
”Wai…… Uwaa! Stop pushin’ me!”
Like a sumo wrestler, I frantically pushed the Kansai slang guy to the entrance. “Bastard! Wait a sec!” The wall of humans that reformed blocked the angry roars of the man in piercings. When we pushed on the thick, soundproof door, even the Kansai slang guy started to run while laughing as well.
When we escaped to Matsumoto Pharmacy at Takeshita, we finally slowed our footsteps after running into a small alley.
”Narumi? So yer called Narumi? Does that count as a surname? Ah, so it’s yer name. I’m Renji, as in striking gold in the east next time. So that’s why I returned to Tokyo.”
I really don’t get his way of explaining, but I still couldn’t bear to say that to Renji-san, who was laughing alone.
”But speaking of which, I was saved all thanks to ya, Narumi.”
”Well…… I didn’t really save you, Renji-san. It’s more like I saved them.”
Renji-san suddenly froze, pushing his sunglasses onto his forehead after that. While wiping the sweat on my arms on my jeans, I asked:
”You probably planned to hammer him on his head, didn’t you?”
”How did ya know?”
”Usually, people would shift goggles-shaped onto their forehead if they wish to move it away, would they not? They won’t particularly pull it to the position of the neck.”
Besides, I heard them saying something like breaking others’ noses. I will be very troubled if someone is hurt there.
”Oh—! Oh— Ohhhh!”
Renji-san kept stroking my head. Please don’t do that, it’s embarrassing.
”It seems like I’m somewhat detestable.”
Actually, the true reason that I wished to stop the battle wasn’t because of such detailed thoughts, but because of the murderous intent from Renji-san’s gaze. Though seeing him laughing happily away now made me think it was all just my imagination……
”Actually, it’s really easy for me to lose control.” Renji-san explained. “So I originally wanted ta live more tastefully. I’ve decided in my heart that I ain’t gonna lose control again no matter what, but my subconscious caused my legs and my head to lose control. How pathetic!” Renji-san started to laugh. What a dangerous person.
After that, I explained to him that I would compensate him for ruining his T-shirt— “Really! Then let’s go right now! It’s been a while since I went shoppin’.” In the end, he actually agreed happily. No, erm……. Though I don’t have a right to say so from the perspective of a perpetrator, shouldn’t people usually refuse politely?
I never thought that he would tell me to buy him three new shirts after visiting five or six boutiques to try on a bunch of clothes.
”Thanks! Shoppin’ without caring for the price really feels refreshin’!”
Renji-san walked out of the shop wearing a brand new orange shirt and said to me with a smile while patting my back. I did frantically say that the more expensive clothes are ‘completely unsuitable!’, advising him not to buy them, but my wallet still couldn’t be saved.
”The third-most happiest thing in the world is buyin’ stuff with other people’s money.”
I think I heard of a sentence like that before this, so I sighed and ignored it.
”The second would be eatin’ with other people’s money.”
”I didn’t ask you about that.”
”And then, the first would be going to Disneyland with other people’s money.”
”Why? How did you form such a conclusion?”
”I returned to Tokyo so painstakingly, I really should go out and have fun.”
”It’s already seven, where do you think Disneyland is at?”
”Isn’t it at California, USA?”
”Then what for did you mention returning to Tokyo so painstakingly!”
”Very good, our partnership for doing tsukkomis is improvin’.”
”Before doing research on tsukkomi partnerships, shouldn’t you pay more attention to the topic first!”
Completely ignoring my anger, Renji-san said something like ‘Let’s go have a drink. My treat.’ Instead. As the weather was extremely hot, while I was rather thirsty as well, I decided to accept his offer. I should say— Think of a way to get back the money for buying his clothes. And I have to inquire about his relationship with Hirasaka-gumi as well.
After wandering Harajuku for quite some time, we finally found a seat for two at the crowded Dotoru Coffee after quite some effort.
”Do you need me to send the dirty shirt for cleaning?”
The shirt that I dirtied using tomato juice was in a bag below the table. As the white clothing was dyed red, it seemed like it would be hard for the stains to be removed by normal washing.
”It’s fine, ya don’t need to be so worried.”
”I really wish that you showed me that kindness an hour ago.”
”Ya won’t buy clothes for me if I do so!”
That’s true! I knew it!
”I’ll treat ya in this shop instead. Order any drinks or food you like.”
Telling me this in Dotoru is a bit…… Even so, this person doesn’t seem to be a cheapskate. Perhaps he just doesn’t know how to manage money properly?
”It seemed like you planned to treat the three looking for trouble beer as well, didn’t you? What were you thinking?”
”Wasn’t it an opportunity of a lifetime? I was thinkin’ of treasurin’ the opportunity of us meetin’.”
”Didn't it seem like they’re looking for trouble no matter how you look at it? Please don’t treasure a meeting like this!”
That moment, the gaze hidden under Renji-san’s sunglasses suddenly softened.
”Each encounter is important— someone once said that to me.”
It was like he suddenly deflated. Looking at my own slanted reflection on Renji-san’s shades, I gently held my cup of iced coffee.
”Well, I always lose things quickly……”
Renji-san explained in an expression that was hard for me to differentiate if he was laughing or in convulsions.
”Though most of it was my fault— havin’ super bad memory and ain’t good at managing money. There ain’t even one friend left in Tokyo, so that’s why I’m reflecting on this right now. It can’t be helped that the friendship that I once had was destroyed, if not, I’m still wishin’ that we can still be friends when we meet.”
How can he speak of such a gentle thought using a tone like incense that had already burnt to ashes?
”…… There’s nothing that ‘can’t be helped’.”
The words unintentionally slipped out of my mouth.
It felt like Renji-san was staring directly at me, causing me to avert my gaze to the surface of the cold coffee instead. Why did I say something like that? I don’t understand as well.
”As long as we are still alive…… There is nothing that can be completely destroyed.”
”…… There probably is, for a few times now, I already……”
As long as we are still alive, even when something appears to be different, it is still……
”What a strange fellow. Why are you being so resolute in front of someone you just met?”
That’s right. Even I felt so as well, making me feel embarrassed, frantically stirring my iced coffee with the straw. Speaking of which, for what reason did we enter Dotoru Coffee again? That’s right, isn’t it to find out the relationship between this person and Hirasaka-gumi? That’s why—
And then, Renji-san’s voice overlapped with my thoughts.
”If so, why don’t you let me try bein’ yer friend, Narumi?”
I raised my head, while Renji-san showed me a mischievous smile.
”I’m somewhat of a rascal, so the friendship would probably last only for a month or so.”
Just at that moment, I saw a trace of loneliness in the eyes covered by the goggles-type shades, and could only respond with a weak smile.
”To tell ya the truth, though I’m sayin’ something like it’s the opportunity of a lifetime, I’m actually a worthless wretch. I can do it no matter how ruthless things are! If ya still insist that the friendship won’t be destroyed, then let’s try to be friends.”
To search for a suitable answer, I crossed my arms and switched them for quite a few times.
”We shouldn’t ‘try’ to be friends, should we?”
”That’s true……” Renji-san smiled wryly. “My bad. Just forget about it!”
”Erm…… I don’t mean that. I meant we shouldn’t just try, wouldn’t it be fine if we just become friends?”
Isn’t it fine if we just exchange phone numbers normally here? Isn’t it fine if we just be friends? As I was about to express my thoughts, Renji-san’s gaze shifted upwards, and stared at the entrance across me. After that, he frowned, showing a visibly displeased expression.
When I turned over, the automatic doors made of glass already opened, while a few dark-skinned young men appeared continually. The two men in front pointed in our direction, and gave commands to the people behind them. They were the men in piercings that we met before this, and they probably found people to help out, causing their numbers to increase. At the instant when I found that something was off, a silhouette already passed my side. It was Renji-san.
I didn’t have enough time to stop him this time. Renji-san just said faintly: “What a drag.”, while the man in piercings already grabbed Renji-san’s shirt from his chest as I was about to stand up clumsily. What occurred next was blocked by Renji-san’s wide back.
A dull thud rang in the shop, while the man in piercings leaned weakly on Renji-san and promptly collapsed onto the ground right after that. Screams echoed in the shop.
”Bastard, what are you trying to d……!”
This time, I could clearly see Renji-san punching his opponent’s face. One of the thugs rushed forwards while roaring in anger, but he was beaten up by Renji-san, blood spurting out of his nose. The more astonishing thing was that Renji-san actually had the time to readjust a crooked table beside him.
I, who was paralyzed with fear, felt a familiar sense of terror instead.
The fighting style that is strong until this extent…… Did I see it before somewhere?
When the thugs moaning on the floor were about to stand up, Renji-san focused his attention outside. A few blue silhouettes could be seen outside the glass door. The police.
Stepping over the collapsed thugs, Renji-san rushed to the crowd looking here from afar, running to an exit leading to a side alley. The sounds of his footsteps were blocked by the closing door, while a huge commotion started in the shop that moment. When I saw the policemen in uniforms walking in, I unhesitatingly decided to flee as well. When I was walking to the entrance, my feet stumbled over something.
When I had a closer look, I realized that it was the plastic bag below the table.
After escaping from Dotoru, I headed directly for livehouse, and suddenly felt that I really have guts, as my appearance might have been remembered by the thugs in piercings there after all. But since I originally went there for work, I have yet to take any photos, so I have no choice but to go there once more.
The audience there seemed to have changed, while another band was already performing on the stage. I hid alone at a crowded corner full of heat with my back against the wall, letting myself drift in along the flow of surging music, weakly pressing the shutter of the digital camera for a few times.
My gaze fell onto the ground— onto the bag containing Renji-san’s clothes. What should I do with this? I haven’t asked for a way to contact him, so I can’t return them to him at all. Even so……
After taking out the shirt and spread it out, I noticed that only the collar and sleeves were black. There were Japanese styled patterns printed on the shoulder, back and side abdomen. Black and purple were radially scattered in an unorganized way, forming a wondrous pattern. Hmm? It doesn’t seem like fireworks, while I seem to have the impression that I once saw the picture before. After I pondered while drawing on the pattern with my finger, I realized that it was not printed, but sewed. It’s really surprising. I am not sure of how many threads it tooe to sew a picture as complicated as this, but probably it should be quite expensive.
So that I can return it to him when we meet again, I should send it for cleaning…… Suddenly realizing that I was actually thinking of such a thing surprised me slightly. I am still thinking of meeting a person like that? Really? I don’t know.
He’s really a strange person. But since the people that are not strange among my friends is an extreme minority, it’s really quite sad. However, the way of Renji-san’s strangeness is largely different. Mnn, a strangeness both far off and dangerous. It felt much like a strong acid and a strong alkali being filled in the same glass bottle at the same time, separated only by a piece of thin paper. Though the time that I hung out with him was short, I still felt quite uneasy.
In any case, he is indeed a resident in the world of violence, a person that one would do better not to approach.
Even so, when I raised my head to look at the stage so that I would focus my attention on the performance, I suddenly realized that my ears could not accommodate any music as the exaggerated Kansai slang, sunglasses that concealed the beast-like gaze, and the cordial, seemingly smile kept swirling in my mind.
In the end, I still didn’t manage to ask if he had any relationship with Hirasaka-gumi. But if he is truly related, I feel that no matter if I wish for it or not, we will meet again one day.
On that moment, would I be able to continue my words not yet spoken?
Though it was something that I found out after a long time, it seemed like our encounter was not just a coincidence. Thus, I really met Renji-san again after that— and it was in a way more bizarre that I had imagined.
The summer break officially started from the next day, but my daily life did not seem to have any significant changes, while the only thing different was the fact that the time for me to arrive at Hanamaru Ramen was advanced to about noon.
Though it was summer, there were so many customers that they had to wait outside. It’s true that the taste of the soup improved quite a lot, causing quite a stir, but the main reason would be because of the ice cream.
”I’ll have a citrus sherbet.” “Chocolate peppermint ice cream.” “Vanilla flavor for me.”
”This is a ramen shop!” Min-san roared at her usual customers while standing behind the counter. “Order ramen and I’ll throw in some ice cream as dessert.”
”We’re starting to sell cold Chinese noodles as well!”
Sweating profusely, Ayaka served the dishes and washed the cutlery in turn, a satisfied smile on her face. The ossans started to laugh as well, and started to order ramen. The two cooperates quite well, being a far cry from a certain useless NEET reserve. Stop calling me a NEET reserve! While doing a tsukkomi on myself, I opened the kitchen backdoor, stepping into the steamy kitchen right after.
”Have you finished washing the clothes?”
At the corridor at the end of the kitchen, a wall of dolls was piled up at a position invisible to the customers, while Alice asked in a slightly thorny tone behind the wall.
”Ahh, mnn. It’ll be done after about thirty minutes.”
”You did not peek or touch the articles in the laundry net, did you?”
”I’m telling you that I won’t do that!”
Ever since Alice fell into the washing machine, she started to mind things like this a lot. As her height does not allow her to operate the washing machine, she would now stuff the clothes she wants to wash into a laundry net, throwing them into the washing machine after that, so that’s quite an improvement. On the other hand, I would take the opportunity to change the sheets and clean the room, but she used ’I will definitely not allow you to wash my good friends!’ as an excuse, taking refuge at the ramen shop with her army of dolls.
”But what will you do when you want to dry the clothes?” I suddenly thought of that question.
”I’ll dry them myself. You will come in contact with my clothes if I put you in charge, is that not right?”
Ah, that’s true. But even if she tosses them into a dryer, they probably won’t dry if they’re in a net.
”Then I’m going out earlier today. I’m going somewhere quite far today.”
”So you are trying to slip away early today as well?”
Hugging a bunny doll, Alice approached while kneeling, slight suspicion in her gaze.
”Mnn…… Is there anything wrong?” Alice hugged her doll tightly, hopping around while squatting. What a nimble person. “You are my assistant, are you not? Do you not have other more important tasks? Pulling the ring of the Dr. Peppers for me and the like, for instance.”
”That’s a headache. Or should I just open all of the cans in the fridge directly? Nono, I’m just joking.”
With her whole face red, Alice randomly picked up a bottle of beer to throw at me, but fell backwards because of its weight. I hastily shifted my focus.
”Erm…… Ayaka, can you show up at Alice’s when you’re free?”
”Asking Ayaka for help so that you can loaf off, has your mind short-circuited! Even phytoplasma are more decisive than you!”
Alice pounded on the wooden floorboards of the corridor. Shouldn’t phytoplasma be the name of parasitic bacteria? Aren’t I often compared with various things.
”E- Erm…… Must it be me?”
”M- Must it be you!? Wh…… Who was the one who said so!”
She was actually so agitated that the wall of dolls collapsed. So that the dolls would not roll into the kitchen, I slipped away by Alice while picking them up. What’s up with her……
”Fine, I understand! Go wherever you want! By the time you come back, I would have learnt how to pull the plug in the bathtub, tie up a plastic bag and fold my pajamas by myself! You will never have any work to do in your life! I advise you to hurry up and listen to a talk about how to claim unemployment insurance at the Bureau of Labor!”
You don’t know how to do even this? And when did I join the Bureau of Labor? Though I thought of a lot to rebuke, since Ayaka was signaling to me with her gaze, I could only stay silent and walk back to the kitchen backdoor.
”I can help after the prime time after noon. However…… It seems like it really must be you, Fujishima-kun.”
Why? Isn’t it the same no matter who fetches her Dr. Pepper?
As I was about to walk out of the kitchen, I was called by Min-san again.
”Where are you going to fool around today? Ueno? Ahh, that’s nice. I want to you to go somewhere for me along the way.”
How is that along the way? The distance from Kitasenjuu to Ueno is not ‘along the way’ at all!
”Do you have anything to say? It’s all because of you making the apron filthy and tattered, so it won’t do at all if we don’t get a new one. The newly made one seems to be already done, so help me fetch it back.”
As I was thinking of retorting her for asking me to go to Kitasenjuu just for an apron, Min-san forcefully stuffed a note into my hands. An address, a phone number and the name of ‘Wakagi Crafts Store’ were written on it.
”It’s my friend’s shop, and I specially ordered it. Though he said that he was going to mail it to me, I want to get it today, so go fetch it for me.”
I was pushed out of the kitchen backdoor, and the door before me was immediately locked.
Wakagi Crafts Store is located at a dingy two-storey building by the Marui Supermarket in front of Kitasenjuu station. When I heard the words ‘Crafts Store’, I thought that it would be the extension of a fashion accessory store, but when I saw the huge wooden cabinets tall as the ceiling as soon as I stepped into the shop, filled with a large assortment of clothing material of linen and hemp at the two sides of the shop entrance, I felt that the shop was more like a wholesaler.
A crowd of girls were gathered at the corner where ribbons and embroidery threads, which was more or less as I expected. There were quite a lot of people there. It was like people like me shouldn’t appear at a place like this, so I tried to walk into the shop while following the edge of the wooden cabinets so that the customers wouldn’t notice me.
At the other side of the counter, there stood the young shopkeeper(probably) wearing an apron with the logo of the shop sewn on it, a graceful looking man with short hair and glasses that looked suitable for him. Ah, I see. His appearance seems like it would be popular with females. No wonder a crowd of what seemed to be high school girls kept glancing at the counter from time by time. Though the reason for the booming business probably isn’t just that— I approached the counter while thinking of that, I suddenly noticed a man talking to the shopkeeper over the counter, causing me to freeze immediately.
”…… told you before, a Chinese pattern is too fine, it’s impossible to make an embroidered patch like this.”
”What about using a laser type? Our shop has it as well.”
”How about a Chidori stitch? I don’t wish to run a few more rounds when it’s nearly don—“
The man who was speaking raised his head halfway through his conversation. As I met the beast-like gaze, I had long forgotten that I was at a crafts store, and only felt that I was about to be killed.”
”…… You……. Why are you here?”
Even though he’s a young yakuza leader who underwent hundreds of battles, his face was slightly green because of the suddenness of the matter, and could only manage to say those words. On the other hand, the shopkeeper curiously looked at Yondaime and I in turn.
”Erm, well…… Err, eh? Well, Min-san told me to come.”
Of course, Yondaime was the one who came back to his senses first. After that, he approached while wearing a ferocious gaze, completely ignoring the voice of the shopkeeper calling him ‘Hina?’, dragging me out of the door behind the counter after grabbing my collar.
”Wai- Yondaime, w- wait a minute, it’s painful.”
When I was dragged to the dark, hot stairwell, I was finally released after being flung to the wall.
”What are you doing here! How did you know of this shop?”
”N- Nothing much. I’m telling you that Min-san asked me to come here.”
”Ahhh…… So it’s Master. Blast……”
Yondaime showed a bitter expression as though he swallowed a cigarette whole.
Though on the surface, this person has the coldness of a sniper wolf who prowls the concrete jungles (Even I, myself, laughed when I wrote this), he actually has a cute side for liking to sew in private. Not only does he have to frantically hide this from his underlings, he was always treated as a laughing stock by Alice and the others.
”Listen closely, do not speak of this shop to anyone.”
Yondaime caught hold of my collar, while the words that he spoke were like a sharp knife pressing on my abdomen.
”…… Who else knows?”
This is quite a headache. For some reason, everyone seems to think that I am a tight-lipped person, but actually it’s just that I won’t deliberately speak of matters concerning other people, but my thoughts are often exposed as I talked to myself when listening to other people’s conversations.
”I’ll kill you if you dare to speak of this.”
”I- I get it……”
”Hurry up and scram when you finish your job!”
”Hina, what are you doing? Remember not to cause trouble for the customers.”
We heard a call. Yondaime released me and turned around. The door was slightly opened, while the shopkeeper poked his head out from the gap.
”And this child is……? Did I hear you say something about Min-san or something?”
The shopkeeper smiled while saying to me.
”Anyways, come into the shop first, it’s so hot here!”
Though it was already surprising to me when the shopkeeper called Yondaime ‘Hina’, the more surprising thing was that Yondaime actually called him ‘Yoshiki-san’. It’s the first time I heard this person use an honorific.
”I really can’t find a button suitable for Alice’s doll, and the stitches are all scruffy now, so I have to give it a complete overhaul. That’s why I came here for Yoshiki-san’s help.”
We sat together at the space behind the counter with our knees touching, and couldn’t be seen from the shop. An unfinished embroidered patch on an embroidery hoop and a pin cushion stuffed full of colorful thread and needles was displayed on the workbench.
”Though it’s so far away here, Hina still frequents this place.” Yoshiki-san said while smiling. As he has to manage the business in his shop, he sits at a position where he can see the whole shop from.
”A lot of fabrics and threads can only be found here, after all.”
In slight displeasure, Yondaime stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jeans.
”That isn’t really true. You can probably find them at the center of the cities, at shops like Yuzawaya and so on.”
”There’s no difference, buying it anywhere is the same.”
I thought while gazing at the two: What kind of relationship do thesz two have? The texture of Yoshiki-san’s skin is extremely good, so his age couldn’t be judged at all. From the impression that the end of his eyes give, perhaps he’s in the later part of his twenties? Though he’s charming, it doesn’t really seem faked. If I say that Hiro-san’s appearance is like champagne, Yoshiki-san’s would probably be natural mineral water. Even so, he could still make other people’s heart pound when he smiles.
”Erm, Fujishima……kun? Is that it?”
”Eh? Ah, yes. Just call me Narumi, everyone calls me that.”
”Why does Hina call you the Gardening Club kid? What kind of relationship do you have with him?”
”Ah— That’s a long story.”
”You’re probably not from the gang, are you? You look like you’re still in high school to me.”
I nodded furiously. Yoshiki-san gave me a hearty smile.
”Hina doesn’t have many friends from before, only those who do mischief with him and his silly underlings. That’s why a friend like Narumi-kun is hard to come by.”
”Yoshiki-san, please stop that. I don’t have that kind of relationship with the Gardening Club kid.”
Yondaime denied rather earnestly.
”Not that kind of relationship? Which are you referring to?”
”This guy is Alice’s assistant. You know, Alice, the kid that specializes at collecting information. Because of some troubles before this, we underwent the sake ritual just like that.”
”Sake ritual? Eh? Didn’t you say that he’s not from the gang just now?” Yoshiki-san looked somewhat confused.
”…… Sworn brothers.”
”Doesn’t that mean you’re friends?”
”I’m telling you that’s not it, we’re sworn brothers!”
”Then your relationship is closer than friends.”
Seeing Yondaime standing up while roaring like a beast, Yoshiki-san couldn’t help but laugh out loud. When Yondaime was about to talk back, the calls of a high school girl came from the other side of the counter, causing Yoshiki-san to turn around immediately. That moment, Yondaime glared at me with a gaze that was like a freshly sharpened knife.
”Don’t you talk so much.”
”But the ones who were talking the most were you and Yoshiki-san……”
Yoshiki-san turned around soon after that. Helping his customers and chatting with us while sitting there, he was just like the guardian of a sentou.
”The girls were all looking at Hina! I told them that you’re like my younger brother.”
”You’re spouting nonsense again!”
”But there isn’t much difference, is it?” Yoshiki-san pushed Yondaime’s shoulders and laughed again. The gaze of the wolf sharpened.
”W- Well, doesn’t that mean Yoshiki-san is like my brother as well?”
The words that I randomly said to ease the atmosphere were actually a huge miscalculation. Not only Yondaime, even Yoshiki-san was in a daze.
”S- S- S- S- Sorry! I got carried away!”
I hurriedly retracted my feet, but they were forcefully stamped on by Yondaime.
”Ahh, no, I don’t mean that. Hina, you should stop using violence. Seriously, you were a person who uses your fists along with your mouth from before this……”
”I’m living in a world where punches and kicks are necessary.”
”Narumi-kun, though he’s so arrogant now, there was a time when he was quite childish as well. Though he likes dolls a lot, his skills of operating crane machines were terrible, and he even cried while borrowing money from me.”
”I did not cry! Stop that!”
”And also, his tolerance of alcohol was terrible before this—“
Yoshiki-san spoke of shocking facts about Hina-chan one after another, while I could only smile while being flustered, and could only sit straight with my knees closed, looking at the faces of the two in turn. What kind of relationship do these two have? Is Yoshiki-san a senpai who once joined Hirasaka-gumi? But as I recall, isn’t Yondaime the first leader of the gang?
”Hina, can I tell him about our true relationship?”
”Stop messing around!”
”Isn’t it fine……” Though Yoshiki-san smiled wryly, he still unintentionally blurted it out. “Let me tell you, Hina’s past girlfriend was quite fond of sewing, and was a regular customer of our shop as well.”
So Yondaime had a girlfriend? Eh? Ah? O- Of course, having a girlfriend isn’t strange, but I really can’t imagine it. Completely ignoring the displeased expression of ’Just stop already!’ on Yondaime’s face, Yoshiki-san continued in full flight.
”Because of his girlfriend’s requests, Hina frequently came to the shop. After that, Hina started to get interested in it after getting taught by his girlfriend. Now, he’s a regular customer as well.”
After a huge sigh, Yondaime crossed his arms.
”Gardening Club kid, I will beat you up until you lose your memory after this.”
Being told such a frightfully horrendous news made me seriously consider if I should immediately abandon the job that I was given and run away. If so, I will definitely get beaten up by Min-san as well. Not only my memory, I might lose even my life.
”Ah, Min-san’s request? An apron, is it? It’s done. Yes, yes, you came here for this. HIna, can you get it for me at the back?”
While muttering to himself, Yondaime took out an apron filled in a plastic bag from the back of the shop.
”I modified the logo of the shop slightly. By the way, please tell Min-san that I can charge her less if she wants me to redo the portiere as well.”
”…… Ah, so you were the one who designed that, Yoshiki-san?”
Though it’s a seemingly ordinary shop, their products are quite tasteful. I really admire the sharp design on the black apron.
”Hurry up and scram since you already got what you want. Shouldn’t your main focus be in Ueno!” With a ferocious gaze, Yondaime forced me to stand after kicking my shin.
Yondaime’s dark green Maserati was parked in the parking lot by the building. If people not in the know saw the teddy bear doll wrapped in thick material, they would probably laugh for a whole week.
”You probably aren’t sending me to Ueno…… Are you? Fine, fine, I get it.”
”I don’t have time to go to Ueno!”
As I was about to walk towards the station, the phone in Yondaime’s pocket rang. After picking up the phone, Yondaime’s face clouded over, while I couldn’t leave as though I didn’t see anything as well. What happened?
”Gardening Club kid, change of plans. Get on the car!”
Yondaime stuffed his phone into his pocket, a look of displeasure on his face, and immediately sat on the driver’s seat.
”Just get on the car! Cancel the plans for the livehouse for now, I’ll apologize to them after this.”
”W- What happened?”
I got on the car, inquiring to Yondaime while buckling the unfamiliar seatbelts of the imported car.
”Someone in the gang caused trouble at Akasaka., at the place where the concert is going to be held next month.”
I got in contact with the Alice and the gang and gave them orders in place of Yondaime.
”Mnn, that’s right, Pole will get you the video later, so you can just analyze it for a bit? EH? Lyril? That teddy bear? Ah…… Mnn…… Well……”
”Tell her that I got the materials and will fix it tomorrow! We don’t have the time to worry about a friggin’ doll right now!” Yondaime roared on the driver’s seat.
’Actually calling my precious Lyril a ‘friggin’ doll’! Is there any difference between the concern for your gang and me being concerned for my good friend!’
I seem to feel like Alice is being furious at the other side of the phone.
”Even if you say that to me, I’m troubled as well……”
The two made a commotion with me between them and hung up after that. That time, the car was just about to go on the Shuuto Expressway. The inertia from the acceleration caused me be pressed on the seat as the other cars with 100 km/h gradually shot backwards in my view.
I glanced at the driver’s seat. Originally, Yondaime’s expressionless face was like a foggy glass, but it already turned into the fierce gaze of a wolf. Should I speak? I hesitated for quite some time.
The large livehouse at Akasaka was originally one of the main venues in our whole plan. It is said that tens of men in black shirts claiming to be from Hirasaka-gumi came barging in, forcing the shop owners to let them see the workers’ lounge, and they actually used violence when the workers refused their entry using the lack of an appointment as the reason. The thugs ran away from the scene immediately after that. I don’t know whether to say that it’s lucky or unlucky, but the workers haven’t called the police yet. That would probably be thanks to Hirasaka-gumi’s bad name. As they were scared of actions being taken in revenge, they called the leader of the gang before calling the police.
The thought of ’How is this possible?’ surfaced in my mind. No matter how dumb the members of Hirasaka-gumi are, it’s not until the extent that they would do something so stupid as shaming their leader at such a critical time— I should say that it’s completely impossible, because those people probably don’t even know where the venue is.
”…… Rocky said he already called all of the members to the office.”
I told him anxiously.
”That part doesn’t matter.” Yondaime answered in a rigid voice. “We’re going directly to Alice’s right now.”
To Alice’s? I stared at Yondaime’s face once more.
The video of the thugs from the surveillance cameras at the scene were taken by Hiro-san using his contacts. The video is currently under analysis by Alice. Who would do such a thing?
That moment, I finally realized something. So Yondaime didn’t feel that it was done by his underlings. If he suspected one of his own, he wouldn’t need to collect the video through Hiro-san, and could just question them all one by one.
Because he did not suspect his people— He is going to give the detective a request.
When I came to my senses, the Maserati already left the Shuto Expressway. Using shortcuts that were not in traffic jams, we entered the small streets with familiar scenery. The brilliant sun of summer was just setting, while short shadows extended from the squat buildings at the two sides of the road. There were girls wearing clothes that showed their shoulders and thighs wandering the boutiques, coffee shops and galleries on the street. Yondaime drove his Maserati slightly roughly, while the surrounding people looked at us with strange gazes, as though they saw a car carrying a ticking bomb pass by.
After that, Yondaime parked his car into the parking lot before the alley. Walking down the car, it was like the hot smell of asphalt mixed together with the sweat on our arms, sticking close to our skin. The two of us ran towards Hanamura Ramen opposite to us.
We ran upstairs after greeting Min-san shortly, and pulled the door of the NEET Detective Agency open. When I stepped into the extremely cold room, I even felt dazed because of the difference in temperature.
”Did you really find a replacement for Lyril’s eye? If his profound, endearing radiance cannot be recovered, I will not accept it, so you’d better let me have a look before putting it on.”
Sitting on her bed, Alice turned around and inquired. While her eyes were gazing at Yondaime, her fingers pounding on the keyboard did not have any sign of stopping. Yondaime sighed and took out a button in a small plastic bag, while the detective nodded in satisfaction and turned around to stare at the monitors after glancing at it.
”Have you finished your analysis?”
Yondaime quickly walked into the bedroom, kneeled directly at the edge of the bed, and looked at one of the monitors as well. The video played was probably taken from a surveillance camera, as a coarse monochrome video was shown by the screen— the silhouettes of men in black T-shirts. One of them was facing the camera, and the white logo could be clearly seen on his chest. A swallowtail butterfly was printed on the center of the arc, meaning that it’s Hirasaka-gumi’s emblem. As the video was soundless, though I could see the men in black shirts attacking the workers and pedestrians, knocking them on the ground, I did not feel any realism in the scene.
A black T-shirt worn by the members of Hirasaka-gumi was spread on the sheets.
It is indeed the same thing. Which means:
”Though the quality of the video isn’t that good, we can still overlay and compare them after analysis.”
Alice spoke in a faint tone, while Yondaime nodded in answer. Even I noticed two things— After glancing at my sworn brother, the both of us confirmed the truth with our silence.
The emblem is the real one. It is indeed the uniform of Hirasaka-gumi. And also—
The ones wearing the clothes aren’t among the gang at all, all of them were unfamiliar faces.
That moment, a phone rang, while Yondaime took out the phone in his pocket.
”…… Mnn, we saw the video. No need, you don’t need to gather them, it’s not a problem of our gang…… I know……. So they disappeared? What about the keys? …… Oh, mnn, okay. I’ll ask Major to investigate. Alice is taking action now, so we’re definitely digging those guys out.”
Yondaime ended the call. From the movements of him keeping his phone, I finally sensed the wavering and signs of anger in his heart. Up till now, Yondaime might have more or less a little doubt on his underlings. To suppress that emotion, he kept his face emotionless. But now— the burden is gone.
”Was it…… Rocky? I heard a bit.”
Yondaime nodded in response.
”Do you still remember the storeroom at the second floor?”
The floor below the office of Hirasaka-gumi. I stepped into that place twice, and both of the times were for meaningless but unforgettable ceremonies.
”The spare T-shirts we kept there are gone.”
I swallowed as silently as I could. It’s unmistakable. It’s a planned crime. Obviously, someone wishes to frame Hirasaka-gumi.
”Who else holds the keys there?”
Alice asked with her back to us.
Yondaime suddenly paused as he was talking. The words that he was about to say suddenly turned hesitant, a complicated expression on his face. What is this? Did he think of something?
”…… Yondaime? What is—“
Yondaime forcefully shook his head in answer, covering my voice directly.
”I’m thinking of borrowing Major as well. I’m going to investigate the route of their entry. Actually looking down on us. We’re definitely going to dig them out!”
Leaving Alice and I, Yondaime left the detective agency alone. For a moment, only the sounds of the old air conditioners mixed with sounds of typing surrounded me.
When I turned around, Alice stopped typing to turn around as well. Our gaze met, while Alice seemed somewhat embarrassed, lowering her head to look at my knees.
”Are you still…… Going to accept the job Yondaime gave you?”
”There is a case of violence, so I have a bad feeling about this. A sorrow that I cannot stop…… It is like I can hear the sounds of the vertical and horizontal lines weaving the fabric of this beautiful world being corroded, polluted.”
Though I couldn’t hear the sound that she spoke of, I could see what was hidden in Alice’s eyes. Helplessness the color of a corpse’s skin.
”Besides, in this incident, the malicious intent directed at our companions this time can be clearly felt.”
That’s right. All of the previous incidents ended in either tragedies or a good ending, not having the space for anyone to get involved. The people standing on the stage were only people who lost their ways and clowns.
But it’s different for this incident.
Someone is deliberately harming the others. Just thinking of it made me shiver.
”Even so, you still wish to—“
Halfway through her words, Alice turned to a side.
”Hmph! It is useless to speak of this to a money-faced person whose eyes can only focus on a high daily salary. I understand now.”
”No, I’m not really doing this for money.”
”Indeed, doing odd jobs at my office will not bring you any money, so it is fine no matter how much you neglect it. Even so, I will still not give you a fixed salary, as I have my modesty as a NEET as well.”
Please get rid of that modesty immediately. But why did she get so angry? It’s the first time I saw Alice like this. I slowly climbed up the bed, walking into Alice’s field of vision.
”Erm…… I think that Alice is very important as well?”
Alice’s face reddened in an instant just like a kaleidoscope that had a petal of rose thrown in.
”…… W- W- W- What are you talking about!?”
Alice jumped for quite a few times, going backwards while swinging her long hair.”
”W-, W- W- W-, What on earth are you doing!? Saying strange things like this all of a sudden!”
”Alice, wasn’t it you who said that I can’t neglect you?”
”That was not what I meant!”
Then what does it mean? Alice built a wall between us using a large number of dolls, shouting repeatedly behind it.
”My point is, you overlook even your own safety, so do you really have the right to worry about the others!”
”Ahhh…… I’m sorry. Sorry for making you worry every time.”
”I have never been worried for you in my whole life!”
The wall of dolls collapsed just like that.
”L- Listen well! The matter that I am worried about is whether the investment I made on you can be regained! Your debts are currently paid using your salary, do you not remember!?”
”I didn’t forget. Mnn, don’t worry.”
I picked up the bunny and dolphin dolls rolled onto the floor from the sheets and placed them by Alice’s side.
I am an assistant detective. For this place, and for this small detective, I must use up all the blood in my body.
Alice glared at me with a gaze as though she was about to burst into tears, and immediately turned around to face her keyboard again. Her black, silky hair flowed along with the movement of her head, gently touching the back of my hand.
After that, a window popped up on the monitor, signaling the completion of a software execution. That moment, the printer activated silently, printing out flyers with photos of the wanted suspects in order.
Translator's Notes and References
- From my understanding, it’s something like a crossfade song, where many songs are mixed together.
- A place where indie music can be freely played.
- He’s explaining how his name is written. The word錬次(Renji) is formed by the words 金（gold），東(east），次(next time）
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