Kamisama no Memochou:Volume 4 Chapter 2
After one passes by the large bus terminal filled with people and the scorching heat of summer, climbing a little of the slope extending towards the direction of the TV station and turns left, the broken down building where the headquarters of Hirasaka-gumi is located could be seen. The office and study forms the third floor, while the second floor would be a part-hall, part-store.
Today is the day after the incident happened at Akasaka. Yondaime and I decided to meet before the steel door on the second floor where I usually steer clear from. Though it was just ten in the morning or so, the blazing sunlight of July roasted the cement fall so much that it almost melted, while the steel door was so hot that an egg could almost be fried on it.
However, the summer heat was not the sole reason that caused discomfort. Each and every one of the members of Hirasaka-gumi lined up before the stairs in an orderly fashion, baring their upper torso, allowing their muscular bodies to be clearly seen.
”E- Erm…… Why are you all not wearing shirts?” Are you having a celebration or something? Your actions will intensify the greenhouse effect, so can you please stop that?
”Yes, sir! It’s our fault that the T-shirts were stolen!”
”We returned our shirts to Sou-san! We are too ashamed to wear them before we catch the criminal!”
”Aniki, please take a look. We put on sunblock in the shape of our emblem, so it’ll be the same as the time when we’re wearing the T-shirts after some time!”
I extended my hand to block the summer sunlight, tried not to let an expression of pity surface on my face after glancing at the sun, and turned around to look at Yondaime. I wonder what he had to do to collect so many idiots.
”If anything happens to me, I’ll count on you to handle these idiots. Allowing idiots to do as they like will cause a lot of troubles in society.”
”Definitely not! I’ll be the one troubled if so!”
Yondaime snorted in contempt after hearing my rebuttal. However, he suddenly looked at my chest with a solemn expression, stretching out his fist and thrust it at me. It was as though the touch reached my heart directly, while I couldn’t help but look back at Yondaime.
What’s with this? Is it possible that…… He was serious about that?
Fortunately, the third person who agreed to meet here— Major arrived soon after. A yellow-brown cap with a star-shaped badge appeared below the stairs, probably the camouflage uniform of the People’s Liberation Army used in the desert? After that, a man even shorter than me with skin as smooth as a primary school student’s appeared. The jet black military backpack he was carrying did not match him at all.
”What’s this? Having a simulation practice of a battle in the desert in broad daylight? Just as well, I’ve brought military knives enough for everyone, so let me distribute them.”
Major squinted at the gang members whose upper torsos were bare. As expected of the professional level military otaku.
”Absolutely not. I should tell you not to wander around with military knives, as the law is quite strict right now.”
”Relax. So that I can dispose of the evidence before the authorities find them, I’ve installed a time bomb on each of the daggers.”
”I can’t relax at all! A dangerous person like you should just hide in a laboratory forever!”
”But I’m here because of Souichirou’s request.”
”Ah— Uuu— That’s true.”
”He said that they’re knives that can explode!”
”I want it……” “On which desert would you need such a thing?”
”Idiots! Observe the outside closely, the vast desert of Tokyo!” Nude clan, can you please shut up?
”Listen closely, return upstairs, and also, put on some clothes!”
Yondaime’s orders immediately caused the lackeys to shut up, and he turned to Major, pointing at the steel door with his chin after that.
Though he looks like a child, similar to Alice, the specialized skills of Major in mechanical engineering cause even university professors to feel pity, because his skills were only used in criminal activities like taking photos secretly without permission, spying, survival games and illegal trespassing. Since they’re birds of a feather, that would be the main reason that he was recruited. Major squatted down before the keyhole, taking out what seemed to be a small magnifying glass. With the side that was fine as a funnel, he stuck it into the keyhole.
Not long after that, Major stood up as his face clouded over.
”Take a look at the windows as well.”
Yondaime nodded while opening the steel door. Eh? What’s wrong? Why didn’t you tell us the results of the investigation? I walked in while thinking in my heart. Since Alice already asked me to, I must remember to take some photos of the possible routes of entry.
Inside, there was an empty room with wooden floorboards. Apart from some tatami mats piled up at a corner of the room, there really wasn’t anything else. Opposite to us was the sliding door leading to the storeroom. The odor of what seemed to be pesticide spread out as soon as the door was opened. There were quite a few rolls of tatami mats propped on the wall, cardboard boxes stacked high, and even a few safety helmets used at construction sites hung on the hooks on the wall. Including the articles in the storeroom, sturdy bars of iron were installed on all of the windows.
Major shook his head after checking out three windows.
”Souichirou, were the T-shirts really placed here? Is it possible that someone in the gang took them for changing?”
”If I don’t say so, they won’t even know if there are holes on their own clothes.”
”Then what about the keys?”
”I keep it by my side.”
”Isn’t it impossible that there aren’t any?”
”I’m telling you that there aren’t!”
I really don’t know how to describe the expression that surfaced on Yondaime’s face that moment. For example, it’s like a person tried hard for two days to make a bamboo raft, and realized only then that the sea already dried up— an expression like that.
”In any case, the keyhole doesn’t have any sign of damage.”
Major shrugged. According to him, tiny traces will always be left in the keyhole if one tries to force the lock open.
”Of course, there is a chance for traces not to be left if he’s an expert in illegal intrusions like me. Which means……”
Major looked somewhat triumphant.
”The person who did it would be me or Souichirou, one of the two.”
”You can go back now. I’ll clear the payment with Alice in one go, so you can get it from her that time.”
”I originally wanted to throw in a little deduction services. I really can’t stand an old Japanese relic like you.”
”I’ll call you if I need your help again, so beat it for today! And also, I can’t seem to contact Tetsu. Do you know where he is?”
”According to Tetsu-san, he hitched a free ride to Niigata for the summer horseraces.”
Yondaime made a ‘tut’ in impatience. Similar to Hiro-san and Major, Tetsu-senpai is one of the members of the NEET Detective Squad as well. His fighting skills might be equal or even more than Yondaime. For an unusual case like this, his skills would be reliable, but since he’s a fanatic gambler, whenever he checks in at a racetrack, he won’t return for at least two days.
”Anyways, I’ll tell you immediately when I come in contact with him.”
Major walked out of the room after saying that. That moment, a shout came from the other side of the shut steel door.
”Training start! Rollcall!”
”Shut up! Stop pretending to be an instructor, pipsqueak!” “Hurry up and give us the knives!”
The point different from Hiro-san and Tetsu-senpai is that Major is completely not respected by the Hirasaka-gumi members. I have a feeling that I heard an explosion as well, but I think it’s better to treat it as my imagination.
I looked at Yondaime once more. His hands were still stuck in his pockets, staring at the storeroom.
”The T-shirts…… I don’t think it’s that much of a special design, you might be able to buy it anywhere.”
”They’re all ordered. Even the size and position of the emblem is the same, so it’s unmistakable.”
”Even so…… That doesn’t mean that it can’t be replicated…… Right?”
As the uniform of Hirasaka-gumi is somewhat famous in this city, it might have been photographed and replicated, or if someone finds one at the garbage dump of this building, they would be able to replicate it.
”I know that.”
Yondaime directly dropped the conversation.
Is it really true that nobody else has the keys to the room— For some reason, I just couldn’t ask that question.
When we walked out of the room, Major’s silhouette and the members of the muscle fest already disappeared. Shouts of the slogans ‘Hira—! Saka—!’ ‘Fight!’ ‘Hira—! Saka!’ ‘Fight!’ gradually became distant. Oi, is it possible that they ran outside without wearing shirts? They’d really get arrested, you know? Even so, Yondaime walked upstairs with his lips tightly clamped. As I felt that I haven’t gotten things clear, I planned to follow and was stepping on the second step of the staircase when Yondaime turned around.
”Hurry up and deal with your promotional work. You shouldn’t have time to meddle in a matter like this.”
”But…… I’m an assistant detective after all, so investigation about matters like this should be my true priority.”
”Shut up. Haven’t you watched the tape from the surveillance camera? A matchstick like you would be sent into the hospital if you get involved.”
”You don’t need to be that worried—“
”Nobody is being worried of you. As Alice lent you to me, it would affect my credibility if something happens…… What’s with your idiotic face!”
”Nothing, really…… I’m just curious why you have exactly the same reaction as Alice.”
Yondaime’s fists flashed before I even finished my words. Before I felt any pain, I experienced the sense that my body was floating and the impact of my body crashing into something, all of the air in my body being spat out of my mouth, and I realized that I flew to the railings of the stairs because of the impact in the end. I stared to cough repeatedly, the taste of gastric acid in my mouth.
”Stop talking so much and scram to Ueno! I did a lot to ask the person in charge to extend the appointment.”
I rubbed my stomach while watching Yondaime leave. What’s with this?
But it seems like the words ‘Not being worried of you’ are true.
’I heard you’re going to Ueno! Go to the zoo for me along the way.’
When Alice called me, I was coincidentally looking at the lush lotus leaves floating on the Shinobazu Pond. The lotus leaves reflected the dazzling sunlight of summer, almost causing people to be unable to open their eyes.
”Erm…… Actually, I’m already at Ueno. Why the zoo?”
’To take photos of capybaras, of course! Aren't you still holding the digital camera? Remember to take a close shot of it so that I can feel its fluffy touch just from the photo. You can pat them in my place as well.’
”I’d rather not. I’m telling you that I’m very busy, having to go to both the advertising company and livehouses today.”
’Did you not say that you will not forget your job as an assistant detective? Even planaria remembers its own soul, but I never thought that you are inferior to even a low class species like this.’
Why must I be scolded like this……? Even so, at least I can still learn from my mistakes, thus I swallowed my complaint of ’How is this the job of an assistant detective?’ into my stomach. Besides, I got Alice into a bad mood just yesterday, so it made me feel more relieved that she can treat me as usual now.
’Your appointment with the advertising company should be on twelve, while the appointment with the livehouse should start at five in the afternoon, is it not? Does that not mean that you have enough time to visit the zoo?’
”Eh? You’re telling me to go there between meetings, and not after they end?”
’You really lack common sense. These animals will enter a slumbering state in the evening, and the zoo will have closed for the day by then.’
I don’t want a hikkikomori NEET with an abnormal body, sleeping less than an hour a day to say that to me!
”My main point is, why must I take photos of capybaras? Aren’t they just large, sleepy-looking rodents with prickly-looking fur? How is that good? And shouldn’t we take photos of pandas if we go to Ueno?”
Alice’s sounds of ridicule after hearing that had long exceeded the range that can be described in words, thus I am not planning to record it completely here.
’If you cannot understand the adorable appearance of a capybara, fine, but you actually have the nerve to mention pandas! If you can only experience the little charm owned by a black and white bear like that, you should just use bamboo as an offering during Obon and pray for it to be reborn! The pandas in Ueno have long died.’
”Eh? R- Really?”
But isn’t a panda the mascot of Ueno up till now?
’That is why it has such a miraculous effect on people who lack information like you, because as the word suggests, the panda is just a mascot to attract customers. In any case, just focus on the capybara and remember to buy a doll of it along the way.’
After that, I had to suffer over ten minutes of instructions with meticulous details on the phone, such as from which angle should I film it from until how many photos I should take, but Alice still hung up while sighing in the end. Uh oh, it’s almost time for my appointment with the designer.
In the end, the appearance of a dancing capybara kept surfacing in my mind during the meeting, and my concentration was quite bad from the start. Actually, part of it was because the workshop of the advertising company was too messy, dolls piled up on cabinets and the desks, causing me to recall Alice’s words no matter where I looked. The designer in charge is a young lady called Mika-san. She dyed her hair blonde, wore long fake eyelashes, put on thick mascara, painted all of her fingernails, and spoke in the tone of a high school girl, all in all the type that I am the worst at dealing with. It was hard for me to speak while looking in her eyes.
”Fujishima-san, you were the one who designed the website? It’s brilliant, totally brilliant! It’s simple, and is a top hit on internet search engines!”
Though she should be older than me, I almost got pummeled by the sense of youth she was radiating.
”Why don’t you just refine the logo of the band as well, Fujishima-san? I think the concept of the original design is okay, just that it doesn’t give people much of an impression.”
”Me? No, erm……”
”This is the logo designed by the drummer of the band, but the focus is a bit…… Since they’re a girl band, the deliberate emphasis of the cute feeling of kitsch and pop seems to be somewhat of a mismatch. Fujishima-san, have you listened to their songs before? Didn’t they give more of a sharp, strained sort of feeling?”
I just feel that her words seem to be somewhat reasonable, so I just nodded for now.
”Ah, but I’m hoping that you will keep the bird, as the whole design is based on the bird.”
Wait a minute, please don’t speak like I’m definitely accepting the request! While thinking of that, I stared at the paper spread on the reception table. On the logo of the band that was formed by English alphabets, the dot on the letter ‘i’ was replaced with the picture of a small bird. Such a design is indeed somewhat cute.
That moment, I suddenly thought of something and asked:
”Shouldn’t there be merchandise of T-shirts made? They probably aren’t finished yet, are they?”
”We’re probably dealing with this next month, as the rights of the merchandise are too complicated!”
”It’s like this, I know a friend working in a shop selling second hand clothes. The shop is called ‘Alan Garba’, and it became quite famous recently.”
Though I’m saying that he’s a friend, the truth is Alice and I did the owner of the shop a large favor during a case before this. Describing that case would take up a long time, so please allow me to explain this some time after this. When she heard the name of the shop, Mika-san’s eyes suddenly brightened.
”Yes, I know! I went there a few times. I heard that it reopened recently, right?”
”So won’t it achieve a promotional effect if we add the band logo and date of the event onto the shirt and sell it everywhere?”
Mika-san started to dance in joy. It’s somewhat worrisome for me to see her express her rich emotions so readily.
”Okay, let’s do just that! Ah, but…… What to do? It wouldn’t work if we don’t start from now, do we? If we design it right away and send it to a manufacturer, that would be……”
”I know a manufacturer as well, though it’s a different person.”
Mika-san leaned forward while supporting her hands on the table in surprise. I opened the website of Wakagi Crafts Store, Yoshiki-san’s store, using a notebook. The range of their products is actually too widespread for a ‘crafts store’, having self-made original accessories and even accepting orders from clients. The introduction page of the products listed out samples of unique accessories in exotic or Japanese style, textiles and embroideries.
”That’s won~derful! The designer is really good. What? You know him? Fujishima-san, what are you, really? A mere high school student being acquainted with Sou-san is already inconceivable, but you actually have contacts everywhere!”
…… What am I, huh? I want to know that as well.
However, Mika-san already picked up her phone and dialed the number of Wakagi Crafts Store when I was about to explain that I don’t know if Yoshiki-san will accept the order.
”….. Hello, I am…… The reason I called you is because I wish for you to help with the design of some clothes. With Hinamura Souichirou-san…… That’s right, Fujishima-san introduced you to me…… Yes, yes, that’s right, uwaaa, really!? Yes, yes, that’s the band, yes, yes……”
I really wish to emulate her ability to take action. While thinking of that, I started to worry about the complicated rights of the merchandise that we spoke of just now. Is it really okay for us to decide things in private like this?
”Then I’ll get Fujishima-san on the phone!”
The phone was stuffed into my hands, and I took it in surprise and apprehension.
”Erm…… Fujishima speaking. Fujishima Narumi.”
’Narumi-kun? It’s been a while…… Not really.’
Yoshiki-san’s gentle voice that was slightly hoarse could make people relax just by listening to it. Though I was suddenly forced to pick up the phone, it’s a good thing that I didn’t say anything embarrassing.
”So sorry, it turned out like this all of a sudden…… Well, asking you to handle such a thing though we just met once……”
’It’s okay, really. It’s my pleasure to accept jobs concerning clothes. As for the design, shouldn’t we arrange for a meeting to discuss about it?’
”That’s right. Of course, it’d be the quicker the better. When would it be more convenient for you?”
’Any time would do, just that I might need you to visit the shop. Very sorry, because I can’t go too far away.’
Ah, that’s right. He can’t just leave the shop there.
’It’s related to Hina’s job, right? Can you bring him along as well? It was the first time I saw him so shy, it’s just too interesting.’
Oh, so he was being shy that time? They say that a dog owner can discern the expression of a dog when he rears it for a long time, so perhaps it’s the same for wolves?
”Erm…… I don’t want to die yet, so let’s forget about it for now. Yondaime is probably busy right now as well.”
Right after I said that, hearty laughter came from the other side of the phone.
I returned the receiver to Mika-san, and she hung up after confirming the details of the project.
While walking out of the workshop, Mika-san’s face clouded over, and asked me in a low voice:
”Yesterday, I heard someone say that Sou-san’s team is involved in strange issues. Apparently, it has something to do with violence……”
”Ahhh, well…… Erm, that incident……”
Though the police weren’t called, news of the incident indeed spread quickly, giving me slight discomfort. I stood in a daze at my original spot for quite some time, mumbling to myself, and spoke again after that:
”I think it’s unrelated to Yondaime and Hirasaka-gumi. It doesn’t matter.”
In the end, what I blurted out were polite words of consolation.
In my opinion, there is nothing more sorrowful than heading towards the zoo below the blazing summer sun.
From the time I lined up at the entrance to buy tickets, there were already quite a few happy families wearing straw hats passing by, while I had to do my best to explain things to the oba-san at the ticket office: “Please give me a receipt for the ‘NEET Detective Agency’. Well…… N- E- E- T- Detective- Agency……” I feel like dying.
As the discussion we had at the advertising company took longer than I expected, there really wasn’t much time until the appointment with the livehouse. After setting the alarm of my phone to ring after an hour, I first headed to the souvenir corner to buy a listless-looking set of capybara dolls stacked together, asking for a receipt for that as well. The female cashier’s smile was painful to me.
I don’t wish to slowly admire the animals on a hot day like this, so I immediately dashed towards the place where the capybaras were located after confirming its location on a signboard. Along the way, I brushed past various couples and kids with their skin dark because of the sun, faintly hearing the conversation of the people that had no content. The penguins are so cute…… The polar bears are so cute…… A pity that there aren’t any pandas now, but at least the lesser pandas are cute……
At the section with llamas and tapirs, there was a clump of an animal that could be held in one’s hands, while another smaller fellow could be seen beside it, probably a capybara family. The expression of the capybaras seemed to be innocent and naive, apart from the llamas and tapirs living with them, they were even frightened by crows flying in, and could only walk alone. I hurriedly took photos of the scene with the multi-functional digital camera that Alice lent me, and suddenly felt that the camera was somewhat wet. I thought that it was because of my sweat, but I only realized after turning my face away that they were my tears. I felt like crying more because of that.
I thought to myself, so the capybaras live on the world so resiliently as well. Llamas eat grass, tapirs eat dreams, while capybaras live on by eating the sorrows of uninteresting, unimportant people like me. A mystifying emotion assaulted me like pouring rain. If I continued to stay by the fence, I would definitely stand there, unable to move, so I silently packed up the camera, leaving the animals.
When I walked towards the exit, I suddenly thought of something. The designer seemed to have told me that the bird on the band logo was called…… What is it again? A black thrush? Perhaps it can be found in the zoo? Would a photo of the real thing be helpful when I discuss about this with Yoshiki-san? Thinking of that, I immediately walked towards the park navigation signboard again.
The cage for bird species that was about four-storey high was filled with branches, while the ones in it were all raptors. I inquired the ojisan that seemed to be the manager there about the matter.
”Thrush? Black thrush? Hmm— We probably don’t have this. There’s a section for common birds in Japan, so there’s probably white’s thrush if you’re looking for it.”
He said while fanning his face with his hat.
”Black thrushes usually aren’t imported to Japan, as they’re not really rare in Europe. For instance, black thrushes in England would be like sparrows in Japan.”
So things are like that? That can’t be helped then, I have no other choice but to check online. It’s just that photos of common items are usually hard to find online.
”Are black thrushes popular right now? Because of a puppet show or something?”
”A young man asked me if there are black thrushes here just now as well. Ah, look, the young man over there.”
I looked in the direction that he gestured at with his chin and saw a tall man whose hands were on the railings by the penguin cage. Having an extremely distinct streak of blonde on his hair, and that shirt— that’s right, it was the shirt that I bought before this.
”…… Renji…… san?”
There was some distance between me and the penguin cage, and the birds there were chirping loudly, but even so, the man seemed to have heard my call, turning around to face me. With quite some effort, I saw the widened eyes hidden by the goggles-shaped sunglasses. That’s right, it was indeed Renji-san.
”Whaddya know, if it ain’t Narumi—!?”
After saying that, Renji-san immediately approached in large steps, grabbing my shoulders.
”This ain’t just an unexpected meetin’! I never thought I would see ya in the zoo!”
Me too. What on earth were you doing?
”T-shirt! My T-shirt, did ya take it, Narumi? I went back to Dotoru for a spin, but didn’t find it.”
”Ah, t- that’s right.” Eh? I recall that I took it back, but where did I place it again?
”The shirt is very important to me. I cried for three days when I thought I lost it, good thing—! Thanks!”
Renji-san held my shoulders while shaking me forcefully in gratitude, while the oji-san left with a shallow smile that said ’thoughi’mnotsurewhatyou’redoingitseemslikeyou’rebusysodoyourbest’.
”Seriously, I was really worried of ya. Actually draggin’ ya into a fight, but not knowing yer number, while ya have a really bland look that I probably won’t notice even though ya passed by me, givin’ off a feeble aura like yer gonna kick the bucket after three days because of food poisoning……”
”None of your business!” Though I thought someone was finally caring about me, but it turned out to be like that in the end!
Renji-san took out a pen and copied my phone number onto his palm. It seemed like he doesn’t have a cellphone.
However, I had a strange feeling about this in my heart— how did we meet again in such a short time in an incredibly huge place like Tokyo? Perhaps this is what they mean by a bad tie can be formed in just a short time? When I think about the time when we got separated, we were talking about odd topics like trying to be friends, reaffirming if it would get destroyed……
It won’t be strange even if our relationship turns sour.
I couldn’t ask immediately about the matters that I didn’t manage to finish that day, and was thinking if I should continue the chat in a place like this…… In the end, we still talked about meaningless trivialities.
”Erm…… When should I return the T-shirt to you? And what are you doing, Renji-san?”
”Lookin’ at penguins, polar bears…… And exotic animals such as lonely high school students who seem to have nothin’ to do in the afternoon.”
”Shut up! You don’t have the right to say that to me at all! I was asking about your occupation!”
”As ya can see, I’m a NEET.”
That’s true. I’m the dumb one for asking a question like this. I can sense a presence similar to Hiro-san and Tetsu-senpai’s coming from him, and was thinking if it would be true. However, I really don’t want to imagine that I’m turning into a NEET detector, and that was why I asked him about his job while wishing that he had a proper occupation.
”I actually had another task for comin’ to Ueno, but I came to the zoo since it’s such a rare opportunity. Since I just found out that the name of a band that I’m takin’ note of means black thrush, I came here to see what kinda bird it is. And there ain’t no bird like that here in the end.”
I couldn’t help but stare at Renji-san once more.
Doesn’t that mean…… It’s the same reason as mine? It seems like not all of this is a coincidence. So the origin of that band’s name is so famous? Though they’re just an indie band, and haven’t been exposed at too many public events……
”And they said that there ain’t any pandas as well, dead, apparently. A lesser panda is now actually livin’ in the cage for the panda, making me think that Rin Rin turned brown after gettin’ older and even split into two!”
”Tokyo changed a lot as well.”
Looking at the surface of the water that the sea lions were in, a lonely expression appeared on Renji-san’s face.
”…… You’re originally from Tokyo as well, right? How long did you go to Kansai for?”
Renji-san stared at me after pushing his goggle-styled sunglasses upwards. Unexpectedly, his gaze was that of one who was moved to tears.
”Did I ever tell you that I came from Tokyo?”
”Ah, no…… Isn’t that right? I just feel like your Kansai slang is somewhat unnatural.”
That’s right, I finally remembered. The impression that this person gives me is neither similar to Tetsu-senpai nor Hiro-san……
”It’s more like you’re deliberately speaking it to ease the atmosphere.”
He resembles Yondaime more. If Yondaime tries from the start till the end to make people laugh……
He would probably turn out like Renji-san.
Because his true gaze hidden by the shades was like that of a wild wolf.
”I once lived at Kansai as well, so I knew it when I heard it. Renji-san, your Kansai slang would be mixed with standard Japanese when you’re not careful, isn’t that right? It would be the exact opposite if it were to be people who grew up in Kansai. They would sound like they’re speaking in standard Japanese, but Kansai intonation would sometimes slip into it.”
I only noticed then that my tone was rather self-righteous, and suddenly felt flustered.
”E- Erm…… If it’s not that—“
”It ain’t wrong that I came from Tokyo. I was still livin’ here until four or five years ago. Though ya look like a dopey capybara, yer particularly sharp in strange aspects.”
Renji-san laughed while lightly thrusting at my chest with his fist. That was the first time I saw Renji-san smile naturally as well.
”Even so, I actually didn’t go to Kansai either. Just loitered around the Chiba district.”
I shook my head, troubled. If so, why does he speak in Kansai slang?”
”Because I borrowed money here and there, becomin’ a jobless bum in the end. Chiba is much warmer.”
”Erm…… Why didn’t you stay at your old home then?”
”My parents were gone long ago.”
Ah, I see. I frankly accepted the truth and leaned my back against the railings, while I stared at the primary school girls walking out of the seating area while holding shaved ice in excitement.
Renji-san looked at my face with his head cocked.
”…… What a strange fellow. Don’cha have more ta ask?”
”More to ask?”
”Usually, people would at least say that they’re sorry for askin’ about this. Was it because of an illness? Or an accident…… Something like that.”
”But don’t you find someone asking you such a question annoying?”
Renji-san’s eyes twinkled, and he had his back on the penguins after putting on his sunglasses. A few kids shouting in excitement passed by us, and then only the blurry, weakening sun of the afternoon sun in summer and the faint odor of animal waste remained.
Renji-san spoke suddenly:
”Narumi, yers were gone as well?”
I looked at my feet with my head lowered.
He can see it? From such a short conversation?
Perhaps he really could see it? I think it’s possible that we’ve experienced the same matters, swallowing our sense of discomfort. I suddenly felt somewhat uncomfortable. Is it possible that I spoke too bluntly, angering Renji-san because of that? ’Don’t you find someone asking you such a question annoying?’ I might feel displeasure when I’m asked such a question, as it’s rather selfish after all. It’s like a wound in one’s mouth, and would hurt no matter whether you touch it with your tongue or your teeth.
”…… My mother already passed away. My dad doesn’t come back often.”
”Ya don’t seem like yer good at taking care of yerself, what to do?”
Renji-san asked with a wry smile, giving me a sense of relief more or less.
”I have a sister as well. She’s much more competent than me. And dad still gives us money for our daily expenses.”
”Yer definitely on the way to become a NEET.”
Even a person I met for the second time feels that? I’m really starting to worry for my future.
”Your dad…… Did he love you?”
”…… Why ask this all of a sudden?”
”No particular reason. When I grew up, my old man already ran away with another woman, so I don’t get it. I’m curious of how fathers treat their kids.”
”I’m not sure as well. But basically, they would probably love them.”
”Whoa! An unexpected answer.”
”Because, people say that the love from parents is unconditional love without asking anything in return.”
”Stop speakin’ lines that would give people goosebumps in a news broadcaster’s tone.”
”I heard this from other people as well. They say that children are gathered in a certain room in heaven before they are given birth, everyone having happy, fluffy days, but the parents pulled us down from there without permission and gave birth to us. If they aren’t so nosy, we wouldn’t suffer on the ground at all, and don’t need to face death.”
”What are ya talkin’ about?”
That’s right, what am I talking about? Even I wanted to do a tsukkomi on myself. In such sunny weather, under the gaze of birds from the north-most and south-most places of earth, I……
”I’m just explaining why parents have the obligation of raising children.”
”I’m not that bright, so put it in a simpler way.”
”Well…… That means, parents owe their children from the time they give birth to them, so giving them unconditional love is reasonable…… Something like that.”
Renji-san looked at me with a gaze as though he was looking at the timetable from the other side of the railway station platform.
”Narumi, ya usually think about these things? If so, I can understand why your pop doesn’t want to go home then.”
”Indeed, I often thought about things like this when I skipped classes before this. As for now…… Probably not.”
”Why? Ya became happy, so ya don’t need to continue to play the fool there?”
Renji-san poked the side of my abdomen with his elbow while speaking in a jokingly tone. Even so, shouldn’t the truth be something like that? I met a lot of people, making me a little…… Though it’s only a little, I still had some growth.
”So ya’d think I’m kind no matter how much I joke? How mature you are.”
”Please be more modest since you understand that!”
Renji-san raised his head to look at the blazing sun of July that had long set and laughed. After that, he bought two cups of beverages at the vendor’s and walked back.
”I’ll treat ya to a drink, and we’re even.”
”So I’m so cheap in your eyes?”
”Narumi, I specially bought a large one for ya.”
”Thank you so much then!”
I snatched the paper cup from Renji-san’s hands. At the instant when I bit the straw, Renji-san asked suddenly:
”Narumi, did ya live around here five years ago as well?”
”…… No. My dad often transfers to other posts. Though I don’t really remember the location, it’s probably not in Tokyo.”
”So I didn’t have the chance to meet ya at all.”
”If I met a person like ya that time, I might not have left Tokyo……”
Renji-san mumbled. “…… And I might not return like this as well.”
To be honest, this person looks more fragile when he’s wearing his sunglasses.
”Actually, I didn’t wanna come back at the start. Forget it…… I found an interesting fellow anyway. I’ll just write it off.”
Renji-san held his paper cup again, showing his teeth, but it was a lonely smile.
What was the reason that caused him to abandon Tokyo, and what was the reason that caused him to return again?
”…… You really don’t have any friends over here?”
Though I knew that it was a cruel question, I still had to reaffirm it.
”Yeah. Well, a lot of fair-weather friends, but no true friend. Every one of them are just moneyless, jobless, unreliable NEETs.”
”That’s because you keep saying something like trying to be friends.”
Renji-san’s laughter sounded like the front tire of a bike turning in the air.
”…… That’s why I’m telling you that you don’t need to try to be friends. Erm…… I might not be free any time because of my work, but since it’s the summer break right now, you can call me if you’re free.”
”Yer gonna let me borrow cash?”
”No! I meant that I can accompany you if you want to shop anywhere!”
Renji-san lightly patted my shoulders with his lips curled slightly. I thought, perhaps that’s his original smile?
”Duh. I still have to get back my T-shirt. And if I’m lackin’ a mahjong partner, I’ll call ya out even if it’s late night.”
”I’ll pass, that will trouble me very much.”
”Not just trying to be friends, ain’t it? It’s true, right?”
He suddenly looked at me seriously, making me swallow before nodding in answer.
I suddenly thought, was he once betrayed before this? If not, he probably shouldn’t be so suspicious. However…… Why isn’t he like the me before this, cooped up in his own world? Is it because he is a person that can’t do even this, lonely to the extreme?
Renji-san pressed the white paper cup enveloped with numerous beads of water near to my face.
”…… What is it?”
”It’s like this. Narumi, your hand, like this…… cross it over here.”
I blankly followed Renji-san’s instructions, our hands holding the cups hooked together.
”And then drink it.”
When the both of us touched our straws with our mouths, our hands formed a chain-like ring.
I know this ritual— and indeed became sworn brothers with someone as well.
”Though we can’t be born on the same year, month and day…… Something like that. There should’ve been witnesses, a mediator and all that, but let’s just ask the polar bear to be our mediator. Only animals won’t lie after all.”
Renji-san finished his whole cup of cola after finishing.
”Well, from the bottom of my heart— I don’t believe in a thing like friends.”
Renji-san’s voice disappeared in the air between us along with the bubbles in the carbonated water.
”So…... That’s why we’re becoming sworn brothers, huh?”
”So ya know that?”
I didn’t know what to say anymore. That was a ritual that appeared in the movie ‘Ben-Hun’— though it’s not really from the movie, but just a way to express friendship between men when having a toast. That’s right, it means—
I can’t just say that he’s related to Yonadime.
”I know that losin’ friends was mostly my fault.”
Renji-san said while scrunching his paper cup.
”I was hesitant, without self-restraint, and I don’t think before I speak as well. Before this, I had a great friend in Tokyo, but thinkin’ that I would probably break all connections with him because of a small matter, I would feel sad. So, how should I say this, that’s why I’m thinkin’ it’s better to at least leave a form.”
I stared at the hard cup that was gradually warming while emitting gas bubbles.
”I thought that no matter how long I live, I probably won’t be able to have a more important friend than that guy. That’s why I thought we should directly become sworn brothers.”
”In the end—“ My throat was suddenly dry. “Did something…… Happen?”
”Ah ha ha! In the end, it was as I expected, we got in a fight and broke off all connections. After that, we could only say goodbye to the idiotic game of loyalty of being sworn brothers. Well, a fate like this is probably destined for me.”
I couldn’t help but feel from the bottom of my heart that it’s a good thing Renji-san was still wearing his sunglasses. If I saw the despair accumulated in his eyes, I probably would have run away from the scene.
”For some reason, now I have to make a mess of the guy, comin’ back to Tokyo especially for this. What’s with this? Why do I…… Every time……”
Each and every word that Renji-san spoke fell on the burning asphalt, as though they’re being burnt. He shook his head and swallowed them again.
”Sorry for makin’ ya play this game with me. Thanks!”
”…… No, there’s no need.”
”Let’s just treat this as a dream before the wine dries up. Ya probably won’t wanna get close to me after this, isn’t that right, Narumi?”
”Of course not!”
Sh- Should I say something right now? But what to say? Though I just drank some cola, my mouth was parched. As I was trying to think of something to say, the phone in my pocket started to vibrate. It was my alarm. Uh oh, it’s almost time for my appointment. What should I do? I still have a lot to say to Renji-san. Is he really related to Hirasaka-gumi? I recall that I heard something about Hirasaka-gumi when the men in piercings at the livehouse in Harajuku were looking for a fight with him. It was indeed not just my imagination.
”Do ya have another appointment?”
Renji-san asked while throwing the flattened paper cup precisely into the trash can a few meters away.
”Eh? Ah, no…… Yes, I need to go to a livehouse right now, well……”
Renji-san approached solemnly once more. My face turned somewhat pale, but I still squeezed out the name of the livehouse, while Renji-san’s brows immediately locked at that moment.
”It’s best if ya don’t go there.”
”Just don’t. Ya can’t go there today.”
It was as though Renji-san’s words pierced into my heart, and an indescribably odd feeling remained between my ribs even after he left.
After I exited the zoo and was walking along the path by Shinobazu Pond, I kept thinking of Renji-san. Though he said all that, I can’t just not go, so I still headed towards the livehouse.
I felt some discomfort in my heart. Though there were some good ways to confirm Renji-san’s connection with Hirasaka-gumi, while the simplest one would be to call Yondaime and ask him directly, I just couldn’t do it.
If I just ignored it, he’s just a strange older friend that I got to know coincidentally on a hot summer day.
Just ignoring the matter seems to be the best way of handling the matter.
Thus, I let the numerous questions that were like entangled seaweed swirl on my tongue, being unable to spit it out or swallow it, and directly stepped into the crowd at the American street of Ueno, walking in the direction of Okachimachi after passing by the railways.
And just because of that, I didn’t notice that there were sirens ringing.
Piercing red sirens hurriedly dashed past the right part of my vision. It was a fire engine. I saw black smoke puffing out of the building that I was headed for the moment I raised my head. Shocked by the scene before me, I immediately fished out the map that I printed before this from my pocket and reaffirmed it.
Indeed, it was the building where the livehouse was at. I quickened my footsteps, but the people crowding out from the shops nearby to watch blocked the small road, causing me to be unable to move. I tried to push away the crowd, and finally arrived before the building after some painstaking effort. Puffs of thick smoke came from the stairs leading to the basement, and a few young men and women could be seen climbing out of it while coughing.
”Please go back a bit! Back!”
”Hey! There’s a power shortage inside right now!”
”Let the injured pass by first!”
Voices of firefighters or the ambulance crew could be heard, but I anxiously stared at the signboard at the side of the entrance to the building. I am certain that the first floor of the basement is the livehouse where I am headed to, and I hurried over after seeing a crowd of people who seemed to be the employees wearing red, open-collared shirts squatting down on the asphalt road.
”E- Erm…… I’m Fujishima who called yesterday, the one who asked for a meeting with you!”
A man whose hair was tied in a ponytail raised his head to look at me with a gaunt expression.
”…… Meeting? Hey you, it’s obvious that this isn’t the time to be talking about something like this.”
”What happened over here?”
”God knows.” “The power failed all of a sudden—“ “Seems like someone in the kitchen spilled something.”
”Someone damaged the power distribution board!” A man that seemed to be an employee as well rushed out from the thick flames, shouting at the firefighters with his face full of tears and soot. The power distribution board was damaged? What’s with this? What in the world happened?
”It’s just a small fire, so it’s fine!” “The fire has been put out now.”
”There are still quite a few people trapped in the lift! Please save them first!”
Numerous piteous shouts interweaved in the air, while Renji-san’s voice resounded in my mind—
’Just don’t. Ya can’t go there today.’
A thing like this— How is it possible? Per haps…… He was referring to this matter?
I hugged the bag containing the doll while squatting down by the road. Silhouettes in silver firefighters’ clothes kept passing by my view, and I was even stepped on by them at times, but Renji-san’s words, wolf-like smile, normal smile and the taste of the cola we drank kept swirling in my mind. Not only the roars of the firefighters, pain, and odd atmosphere, I couldn’t even feel my own heartbeat.
It was not until sounds of emergency braking rang and heat from an exhaust pipe blew on my face that I came back to my senses. When I raised my head, my whole field of vision was filled with a luscious blue. I have an impression of this— it was a car very familiar to me. After that, the door of the driver opened, while a silhouette wearing a beige coat and suit pants dashed out.
”Narumi-kun! Phew, it’s a good thing that we found you so quickly!”
”…… Hiro…… san?”
Why is Hiro-san here? I haven’t recovered completely yet. After looking at my surroundings, I found that I was before a rolling door by the road at a slight distance from the building that was on fire. How long did I go in a trance for? Though the spectators surrounding the scene already disappeared, the entrance to the building was still sealed with tape, while policemen in uniforms could be seen at the scene as well.
”Are you hurt? You’re inside just now, right, Narumi-kun?”
”N- No. When I arrived, it was already—“
The back door of the car opened while shaking, shocking me out of words. In her pajamas and long, knee-length socks, without even wearing shoes, Alice was trying to use her weak hands to push open the door, preparing to walk on the road.
”W- Wait a minute!”
I hastily sprang up, running towards the car and pushing Alice inside.
”W- Why are you here, Alice?”
”You actually have the nerve to ask me ‘why’!?”
Sitting on the car seat, Alice looked at me with her tearful eyes while holding her fists on my chest.
”I called you when I saw the news about the fire, but not only did you not answer the phone, your GPS signal was completely motionless at the scene, and you still have the nerve to ask me why!?”
”Ahh……” I stretched my hand into my pocket. So there was a call— but I didn’t notice it vibrating at all.
”A person like you, a person like you! I thought that you would get burnt to a crisp, and was thinking of checking out if your brain would melt like butter so that your thoughts would be smoother, but you were actually just hugging your knees, practicing how to be a tramp by the road, it really made me so speechless that I do not know how to scold you!!”
Alice, who should have been speechless to the extent that she couldn’t talk, was instead giving me a rapid-fire scolding, shedding tears while scolding as well, making my mind sink into confusion as though it was about to spit fire, so I could only push Alice back into her seat, while I entered the car and locked the car as well. It won’t be nice if people saw or heard anything about this. Hiro-san returned to the driver’s seat as well and buckled his seatbelt.
”It really gave me a huge shock. Calling me to Hanamaru Ramen all of a sudden, and Alice actually ran to the ramen shop in an attire like that.”
”Hiro! Idiot! Do not speak out of turn!”
Alice pounded on the back of the driver’s seat while shedding tears, while I just felt that it was somewhat unbelievable while staring at the NEET detective whose face was red because of crying.
Though she’s just a serious hikkikomori who will feel shortness of breath when she goes outdoors.
”E- Erm…… I’m sorry. Sorry for making you worried about me.”
”How many times do you want me to repeat this!? A matter that is a waste of time like being worried about you is definitely not allowed to exist in my life!”
Alice repeatedly hammered my thigh.
’T- The matter that was worried of…… Uuuuu…… Was the capybara doll that I told you to buy!”
If she keeps worrying about an incompetent assistant like me, it wouldn’t be enough no matter how many hearts she has. Just thinking of it made me feel apologetic.
”Erm…… The doll is fine. I remembered to buy it, it’s fine and well.”
When Alice saw the coffee-colored object that had three layers that I took out from the plastic bag, she suddenly got angry, flying into a rage.
”This one is Mr. Capybara, not a capybara, you nitwit! Though I have known for a long time that you cannot even differentiate the full moon and a melon bun, I never thought that it is actually serious to this extent!”
”Huh? Eh? What? Isn’t this just a capybara?”
”They’re completely different! This is just a cartoon merchandise created using the doodle of a person who does not know of capybaras! The one that I want is the one who resembles the real one with an over-square nose!”
Alice was so furious that her whole face reddened, and she pranced on her seat while I was completely speechless. What the heck? Aren’t they about the same? Hiro-san smiled wryly while saying: “I’m going to drive soon, so help Alice to buckle her seatbelt.” As the car suddenly accelerated, my body was pushed back onto the seats. I only noticed at that moment that my heart was pounding quite seriously.
”Disregard Mr. Capybara for now, hurry up and report to me what happened at the scene. Do you know the reason for the fire? Was it done by the people who claimed to be from Hirasaka-gumi?”
I choked over my own voice.
That’s right. There is such a possibility. I heard someone say that the power distribution board was deliberately damaged……
That moment, the image that gave off piercing sounds of friction and odor of metal gradually formed a concrete film in my mind.
Renji-san once mentioned the band that Yondaime and I are in charge of promoting, and made a strange response to the name of the livehouse. Which means—
Our reunion at Ueno was not a coincidence.
The scorching sunlight, taste of cola that remained on my lips, and the warmth of Renji-san’s wrist when our hands crossed gradually awoken from my memories, while I started to tremble because of a chill. I think it isn’t just because of the strong air conditioning on the car.
I really don’t wish to believe this. But…… All of the deductions match.
My phone rang— just in my pocket.
’You’re at Ueno, right? Did you see the fire? Was the damage serious?’
Yondaime’s voice at the other side of the phone was unexpectedly calm.
”No, when I reached the scene, it was already…… The fire didn’t seem to be too big. I heard that there was a power failure, and the power distribution board seemed to be damaged as well.”
I gulped. I should tell him about Renji-san as well, but how should I say it? I don’t have any concrete evidence, and nobody actually saw who did it as well.
Anyhow, I must think of a way to say it. When I was about to speak, Yondaime started first:
’Did you see it?’
”…… See what?”
’I’m asking you if you saw the person who ran away after damaging the power distribution board!’
”N- No. I don’t even know who damaged it……”
’That’s fine. You don’t need to mind about this anymore.’
Yondaime’s voice was like a small bubble that drifted to the surface from the bottom of a sea full of oil, deep and turbid.
’I’m telling you to just take care of the promotions! I caught a whiff of the people who took the T-shirts now. You and Alice should just keep out of this.’
”You caught them? Who— Who did it?”
Bleached hair and goggles-shaped sunglasses surfaced in my mind once again.
’None of your business!’
”W- Wait a minute, please wait!”
He hung up. I blankly stared at the silent phone on my palm for awhile, and my gaze then wandered in the car full of air conditioning.
I only stopped when I met Alice’s gaze.
I closed the phone as though I was about to crush it.
”The person who did it last time…… He said that he found him. Yondaime told us not to meddle anymore.”
How on earth did he find him? Only two days passed from the day.
”The wanted poster that I made yesterday has already spread through the whole Yamanote Line. Besides, they are in an organization as well. Hirasaka-gumi will definitely find them if they use all of their men. As for you, what do you wish to do?”
What to do? Perhaps I should just do as Yondaime said, ignoring the piteous cries and sirens, continuing with my promoting job?
How could I do a thing like this?
”I want to talk directly to Yondaime. Hiro-san, I’m very sorry, but can you let me go off the car near the station before going back to Hanamaru Ramen?”
Hiro-san nodded in answer while staring at the windscreen.
”I’ll send you directly to their office.”
”Well…… But you have to hurry up and send Alice back.”
The NEET detective who has a serious ‘outdoors-phobia’ cannot stay out of her office for a long time. However, Alice tightly hugged her capybara doll until it changed shape, softly saying in a rigid tone near Hiro-san’s neck:
”I am going as well.”
I was taken back and kept staring at Alice, but was answered with a glare in the end.
”Even if you go there alone, you will be chased back by Yondaime immediately We must use up all of our sophistry so that they will accept the legitimacy of letting us know of the message.”
”On the phone—“
”Narumi-kun, if you go alone, Yondaime might beat you to death. She’s probably worried of you going there alone.”
”I am not worried! Hiro, please shut up!”
Hiro-san did not answer her, but just pretended not to hear her words while stepping on the accelerator.
”Didn’t I tell you not to meddle?”
Yondaime sat behind his desk in the Hirasaka-gumi office, a look of displeasure on his face. Though it was already summer, he was wearing a coat embroidered with a Chinese dragon, and that meant that he already entered the state of war preparation.
”Nee-san, Aniki, Ojiki, thanks for your hard work!” “Thanks for your hard work!”
Members of Hirasaka-gumi lined up at the two sides of the room, and greeted us in a low voice with their heads lowered when Alice, Hiro-san and I walked inside. Though it’s the same every time, I really wish they wouldn’t do that. It’s a good thing that they’re at least wearing clothes today. As they were forbidden to wear the uniform before the incident ended, all of them were wearing different personal clothing today.
”Why is even Alice here? In pajamas, as well.”
Separated by the desk, Yondaime glared furiously at Alice’s small body.
”I am a detective, and I accepted a request. There is nothing more important than this.”
Though her tone was still self-righteous, Alice was hugging the doll with her left hand, clutching on my sleeve with her right while trembling non-stop behind me. It seems like she lingered outside too long.
”Who cares about your rubbish reasons. I just requested you to analyze the photos, wasn’t the matter long resolved? We caught a grunt thanks to you. I’ll deposit the money for you next week, so hurry up and get back to your ice vault.”
Alice’s small hand tightly held my wrist. It was unclear as her skin was just too white, but her face paled long ago.
They caught a grunt already. Does that mean they caught one of the people making trouble in the name of Hirasaka-gumi so quickly? It seems like I’ve underestimated Yondaime’s mobility too much.
”Does that mean…… Your request has ended?”
”Yes. The only thing rest is a conflict in our own gang, and we will handle it ourselves.”
An internal conflict? What does that mean?
”But I have the obligation to confirm if the message that I gave is true, confirming if the results avoided innocent people from getting harmed.”
”That isn’t a reason at all. I confirmed the person in the video myself as well.”
”That will be my judgment to make.”
Yondaime looked slightly impatient.
”We’ve already thrown the guy into the second floor vault, and had already beat him up until the extent that you will faint over ten times because of anemia. You aren’t going to ask him to meet you like this, are you?”
”That is why I brought my assistant as well, right? Narumi’s eyesight is the only thing that I trust.” Only my eyesight? I see, but that’s true as well. “I am putting Narumi in charge of judging if the person in the video matches the real person.”
”One stupid excuse after another……”
Yondaime glared at me with a ferocious expression as though he was about to pounce on me, while I could only turn around and pretend not to see it.
In the end, Yondaime still stood up, gesturing with his chin for me to follow. On the other hand, Alice stuffed an IC recorder into my hands while saying something like ’Record the man’s testimony by the way’. What ’’confirming if they match’? What a bad excuse.
Even so, I wish to learn of the truth that had nearly formed…… And also, the reason that Yondaime is handling this as an internal strife, and must exclude us from this.
Hiro-san remained to keep Alice company, while Yondaime and I walked to the second floor along with Pole and Rocky.
At the instant when we opened the steel door, a low moan that sounded as though it came from the deepest depths of the throat could be heard.
”Did he spit out any new information?”
Yondaime quickly walked past the wooden floorboards, asking the two people by the door to the storeroom.
”He said that he doesn’t know about their hideout nor the phone number.”
The gang member on the left shrugged. Pole curved his body that was over two meters to enter the storeroom, while Yondaime closely followed. I suddenly remembered the drug dealer who was caught by Hirasaka-gumi during the Angel Fix incident and couldn’t help but gulp. I turned on the power source of the recorder Alice gave me, and the sounds would be sent to the office on the third floor wirelessly, and will be recorded as well.
There was a man tied up with a black plastic bag. I stepped into the room while trembling, and the man finally raised his head.
Though there weren’t any injuries that were particularly visible, I could still see that he was very badly beaten up. The corners of his eyes and lips twisted in pain, while his saliva that was mixed with blood had long dried up by his mouth. Perhaps the attacks were concentrated on the stomach because he wouldn’t be able to speak if they hit his face? I covered my mouth, standing blankly at the entrance of the storeroom in fear.
”…… I’m telling you…… I really don’t know anything……”
The man sounded like he was about to cry.
”The other party called me actively every time, and he doesn’t have a phone as well.”
”Haven’t you met before?” Pole asked in the tone of a delinquent. Lying horizontally on the floor, the man answered while trembling:
”We met a few times at a shop…… A- At Ikebukuro.”
”Sou-san, what should we do? It seems like we wouldn’t know anything even if we hang him up.”
Rocky asked by Yondaime’s ears.
”Do we need to put him into a bag and throw him on a hill?”
”P- Please don’t!”
The tied up man wriggled like a caterpillar, spraying saliva everywhere.
”Sou-san, I- I heard that if I fight with you, you’ll let me go if I win, right? Hirasaka-san said that, isn’t there a rule like that? Please!”
Hirasaka— the word forced itself into my ears, breeding in huge numbers like the spawn of spiders.
Yondaime narrowed his eyes, approaching the man step by step.
”…… Really? So that guy didn’t even forget about such a meaningless thing?”
The wolf answered softly, looking at his opponent frightened out of his wits.
As I was about to interrupt, Yondaime turned around and said while glaring at me:
”Gardening Club kid, get out for a moment, we’re having a judgment. This is very meaningless, so don’t let Alice hear this.”
That’s right, Yondaime once told me when we became sworn brothers— about the two men who founded the gang.
As the leaders, they were Hinamura Souichirou who still leaded the juvenile delinquents, and another man— setting up a lot of rules, leaving his name on the signboard of the gang, disappearing without a trace after that.
Rocky kept silent, pushing me out of the room. I didn’t even have the energy to resist. I saw Pole releasing the man and dragging him to the wooden flooboards. After that, the huge body of Rocky blocked my vision, and I was pushed out to the staircase. At the instant before the heavy steel door closed, I heard the sounds made by Yondaime’s fists.
Yondaime walked out after about two minutes, glancing at me while wiping away the blood stained on his fingers. After that, he leaned against the railings of the stairs, and heaved a long sigh. Pole and Rocky just stood at the two sides of the steel door.
”Sorry for not telling you before this.”
Yondaime spoke to me in a low voice. I blinked.
”…… About what?”
”The guy who stole the T-shirts. Actually, I knew who he is long ago.”
Yondaime sat by the railings and extended his hand towards his pocket, taking out a key. ‘2F Storeroom’ was written on its label.
”Another guy has this as well. He was the one who did it…... Just that I never thought that he would actually keep it until now.”
Veins appeared on Yondaime’s right hand. The label was immediately torn down, and the key was bent by his fingers. Compared with his horrifying grip, the enigmatic expression on Yondaime’s face was scarier.
”Sou-san, I still can’t believe it, is there some kind of misunderstandi—“
Pole stepped forwards, but was glared to immobility by the ferocious gaze of the wolf.
”This is definitely not a misunderstanding. Having an odd surname like that, how could there be any other person who came back to Tokyo recently just to look for trouble with us?”
Yondaime turned away after throwing the unusable key onto the floor, the pictures of the rising and descending dragons glaring at me in his stead.
”— Renji was the one who did it.”
Translator's Notes and References
- A shop that first appeared in the first drama cd of Kamisama no Memochou.
- Name of the panda that lived at Ueno.
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