Kamisama no Memochou:Volume 4 Chapter 3
That time, Hirasaka Renji was just fifteen, recently graduating from middle school. He did not continue his studies at a high school, but formed a juvenile delinquents’ gang known as the ‘Shura-dou’. It’s hard to imagine that the name was thought of by a city boy, and was said to be taken from a yakuza movie starring Aikawa Shou.
”In any case, that guy is super strong, as he’s one of the Four Heavenly Kings.”
One of the most experienced persons in Hirasaka-gumi— Pole said that to me.
”He might even be scarier than Sou-san. Because he fights with a smile.”
”I’m not too familiar with matters that happened during that period of time.” Hiro-san answered on the driver’s seat.
We were on our way back to Hanamura Ramen from Hirasaka-gumi. As he was too tall, Pole’s head bumped onto the top of the vice-driver’s seat.
On the other hand, Alice and I sat at the back with a wall of dolls between us while the both of us stayed silent.
”At least Ojiki still went to high school.” Pole said.
”Just for a year. And I mixed with Tetsu right after that…… Hirasaka-gumi had already been founded that time.”
”The delinquents nearby weren’t originally in any gang at all, as they still thought that forming a gang is stupid.”
That’s true. It’s still fine if it’s the early Chiba and Kanagawa districts, but such an era is already over. Forming a gang would usually require an imaginary enemy, but the adults don’t even have the time to be children’s enemies anymore.
”But Hirasaka-san kept saying something like ‘Let’s help the others’, and everyone were like, ‘What are you talking about?’, but the ones who didn’t listen to him would be badly beaten up.”
Pole wasn’t a member of Shura-dou himself, so he was quite displeased with Hirasaka Renji who barged in his territory, but actually he was just a drop out complaining at a convenience store.
And just at that moment, another problematic issue arose from Osaka.
”I heard that Sou-san lived with a woman when he first came to Tokyo.”
”Ehhhhhhhhh!” And he actually lived together with a woman? My previous impressions of him collapsed completely. I wonder how that guy is before his girlfriend. Or perhaps he still had his brows locked constantly?
”Ah, I’ve heard about that a bit……” Hiro-san suddenly interjected. “He depended on women before this as well, and she’s a lady working at a pub or something. As the shop that his girlfriend worked at clashed with Renji’s team, Yondaime dashed over there…… Something like that.”
”Ah, that’s not right. I heard that they didn’t clash!” Pole corrected at a side. “I heard it from Sou-san after that as well. He ran over to the place that Shura-dou gathered and took revenge after that, teaching them a lesson, asking them if they’re idiots, leading so much people and actually daring to make trouble at a shop that had the support of yakuza.”
”Isn’t that just a clash!” Hiro-san couldn’t help but do a tsukkomi on him.
”But Hirasaka-san was quite forgiving. After that, the two of them started to cooperate, chasing away the delinquents from the gang called Godouda or something away, taking charge on the shop themselves.”
How is that possible— If I’m not too familiar with Yondaime, I would probably have such a reaction. Logically, how would a bunch of kids dare to look for trouble with the yakuza, snatching away part of their territory in the end?
”I heard that Sou-san seemed to have some relations with a house intermediary who did quite a lot of dodgy business. I’m not sure as I’m not really bright, but it seems like they tinkered with the data of land or the building, and took charge of the shop in the end.”
Indeed, tricks like this again. I don’t know how he feels himself, but he really has the potential to be the intelligent-type yakuza.
”And then, he formed a gang with Hirasaka-san. Ever since Sou-san got serious, our territory increased rapidly. The name of the gang changed after that, and we rented an office as well.”
”That’s right, I was always curious about this, but why the name Hirasaka?” Hiro-san inquired.
”Sou-san said something like companies still keep their name after they are merged……”
Wow! That seems to be a very commercialized reason. As expected of Yondaime.
”And also, I heard that Hirasaka-san said that the name Hinamura is fine as well, but Sou-san hates his own surname.”
It is said that Yondaime’s family at Osaka is an old yakuza gang doing business on the road, probably using the name Hinamura-gumi, Hinamura Clan or the like? If so, not wanting to use the word Hinamura is quite understandable.
”However, the sake cup was half filled when they underwent the ritual, so there’s no such thing as one who is on the top. We were present when they underwent the ritual as well, and we felt that we’d probably be unbeatable as long as the two are here. Plus, it seems like Sou-san and Hirasaka-san didn’t only share sake, they exchanged something important as well.”
”…… Something important?” I muttered the words again.
”As for what it is, the both of them won’t tell us at all, so we all say that it’s a ‘super sake ritual’. All of these are legends, you can only say that they’re legends.”
Sake thicker than one’s blood…… And a certain thing even thicker than that that ties the two of them together.
I tried to recall the taste of cola that remained on my lips, and the ritual sake that had already turned faint.
”I heard Renji say something about this as well.”
Hiro-san’s voice was sweet but clouded.
”I asked him what kind of important thing that is, but he said that it’s a formless thing that people can’t see so easily. And Tetsu said in the end: ‘Are you guys gay?’, while Renji said while laughing as well: ‘A relationship closer than bein’ gay.’, making Yondaime extremely annoyed, and they got in a fight, spilling the ramen, causing everyone to be scolded to death by Min-san.”
So such a scene once appeared behind the portiere…… A dream from a long time ago.
”But……” Pole lowered his voice. “The two had already done things to this extent, why did they……?”
In the end, I still couldn’t tell Yondaime this—
Meeting Renji-san at Ueno before this, and the fact that he told me not to get near the livehouse.
Even if it is already certain that he is Yondaime’s past companion, Hirasaka Renji…… No, it should be because it is already certain, I cannot speak it out.
Why did Renji-san— A person who once created Hirasaka-gumi along with Yondaime, do such a thing?
”You guys in the gang, does anyone know the reason Hirasaka Renji left Tokyo?”
Alice kept her chin buried in Mr. Capybara from just now, but suddenly inquired, breaking the silence. I was taken aback, and stared at her face separated by the mocha bear.
”…… No. Nee-san, do you know about it?”
”I do not know right now either. Besides, Hirasaka Renji already left Tokyo when I got to know Yondaime. But I know the way— including which grave I should dig.”
”Sou-san would promptly beat people up when he hears Hirasaka-san’s name, so nobody dares to ask him…… Perhaps— they were already enemies when they parted five years ago?”
”I am not sure about this as well.”
Alice’s words stopped there, and only a dark silence was left after that.
A truth that only the detective can find— However, there is no reason for her to verify, because nobody made such a request.
”Ojiki, so sorry for asking you to send me here.”
Pole immediately bowed deeply after walking out from the car parked before the ramen shop, bumping into the top of the car in the end.
As for why we let him tag along, it was because Pole said that he had something to do at Hanamura Ramen when we was about to leave. At first, he still refused when Hiro-san asked him if he wantsd a lift, but since we have something to ask him along the way as well, we just dragged him into the car. Even so, what business does he have? I thought while looking at the huge silhouette that passed through the portiere.
”It is so hot that I feel like I am going to get cooked.”
Alice frowned while looking at the hot air that entered from the seams of the door. Though the sun was about to set, the asphalt road was emitting large amounts of heat stored before this, causing it to feel much hotter than noon. It seems like the ramen shop would be packed with people who want to eat ice cream tonight as well. Even the seats formed of overturned beer crates were full of people outside the ramen shop.
”Narumi, help me to order red bean ice cream from Master. And also, though I have no intention to have dinner right now, order cold tsukemen without the ramen if she wishes for me to eat. Hiro, remember to move my good friends back to the office.”
When I walked down the car while holding Alice’s hand, I heard a commotion from the ramen shop. Turning around to have a look, the surprising thing was that Pole actually kneeled down before the portiere. The salarymen customers stood up while holding their bowls, distancing themselves from Pole.
”…… A- Ah, you can’t do this, at a place like this…… I- In any case, can you go to the seats at the back first? I’ll get you an ice cream.”
Ayaka, who was serving the customers outside, seemed to be struggling, showing me a troubled expression, but I was so surprised that I couldn’t move as well.
”What is the meaning of this? There are other customers over here, you’ll trouble the others like this!”
Min-san frowned at the other side of the counter. After that, Pole raised his head.
”Hirasaka-san came back.”
Min-san just moved her face slightly.
”He’s now the gang’s enemy.”
”So what? Who cares about the idiotic fights of you kids?”
”No matter how great Sou-san is, if he goes against Hirasaka-san, who knows how the results will be. And we don’t wish to see them fighting each other as well.”
Min-san stood behind the Chinese frying pan emitting fire and smoke with her head lowered in silence.
”But Sou-san said that this is an internal problem of the gang, and said that he’s not asking for Nee-san and the others’ help. He might have already found out Hirasaka-san’s current location, thinking of ending the past grudges alone. If his opponent is Hirasaka-san, I think that it’s hard for Sou-san to get out without a scratch as well.”
”If it’s Master, you’ll definitely be able to stop Hirasaka-san and Sou-san, so please!”
”Why must I do such a thing? What are you thinking? Idiot!”
Words that sounded extremely cold and cruel. Even I almost felt like adding some words after Pole.
”But Master is stronger than them both, and nobody else can stop them at all.”
”I still have other customers, so stop fussing. And aren’t you a bit mistaken? I’m a ramen shop owner.”
Min-san’s answer was quite justified, and she handed the Chinese fried rice to Ayaka. “Sorry for the wait~” Ayaka served the food outside with a look of fear.
”If Sou or Renji comes to the shop, I’ll treat them to ramen and ice cream as well. If they have anything to say, I’ll listen, but if they continue to do these useless matters, I’ll beat them up— this probably counts as my job. However……”
Min-san finally turned her gaze to Pole— or I should say, Alice and I, Hiro-san on the driver’s seat, Yondaime at a faraway place separated by the railways and the station, or perhaps Renji-san somewhere in Tokyo? That moment, Min-san’s gaze was soft like candy made of white snow.
”Isn’t bringing them here your job?”
Pole’s hands fell onto the asphalt road with a thud. Alice looked at the large, downcast silhouette.
”Let’s go, we have our work to do.”
Alice pulled on my sleeve, and we walked towards the back of the ramen shop. Alice stood while holding the tray to her chest, looking at us with a confused gaze. However, Ayaka was much stronger than me, and she walked to Pole’s side with her head lowered.
”E- Erm…… Do you want to order anything? I’ll get another beer crate for you to sit on.”
As Alice forcedly pulled on me to go forward, that was all I heard. The two of us walked silently on the emergency backstairs, letting the lights, steamy air, sounds of conversation and the fragrance of soup fade gradually.
Such a kind place was here from the past until now, so there should have been a place for Renji-san here once before as well.
And he actually had to abandon such a place— What in the world happened?
Alice stepped into the office that had the air-conditioner going strong, causing goosebumps to rise at once, and immediately collapsed on her bed. Since she went out for so long, perhaps she already reached her limits?
After the process of moving the dolls was complete, Alice just turned around to look at Hiro-san.
”It is fine now. Please tell Master for me: Very sorry for troubling her.”
Hiro-san, who seemed to be convinced, nodded in response, and returned to the entrance after placing the dolls by the bed.
”I’ll go to Yondaime’s again for a spin.”
Hiro-san turned again.
”I’ll reaffirm if he’s truly not going to give the detective a request. Yondaime’s mind is full of the hereditary genes of the yakuza, so it’s easy for him to think of useless matters like the gang’s pride and the like. Actually, he’s already busy with his job, so let us NEETs handle the troublesome matters.”
”As you wish.”
Alice’s answer was unexpectedly cold. My thoughts were the same as Hiro-san’s, thinking that Alice should be like this as well.
”Ahh— Blast! That Tetsu, not knowing where he ran off to at these times! It should be his turn to appear.”
If Tetsu-senpai is here, even if he goes to beat Yondaime up— No, that would probably make matters more serious. But in incidents of violence like this, his absence is quite troubling.
”Alice, don’t force yourself as well.”
Hiro-san reminded her while putting on his shoes.
”I have never forced myself in my whole life.”
Alice raised her body by supporting her hands on the bed, answering softly.
It seems like letting her calm down would be better. As I was about to follow Hiro-san out of the room, a shrill voice came from behind.
”Why are even you going out? Come and kneel over here.”
Alice was buried in a pile of dolls while being covered in a blanket. As her eyes were somewhat foggy, I could only do as she said, kneeling down by the bed.
Alice pressed the doll of Mr. Capybara that I bought for her before her chest, hiding half of her face, making me feel that her gaze was even sharper, strongly fixing me there like a nail made of ice.
”The job that I accepted from Yondaime was only to make the wanted fliers of the T-shirt thefts.”
Alice looked at me with a gaze as though she was typing with only her thumb.
”The task has already been completely. The man who was caught was confirmed by you as well, confirmed to be in the criminal organization. The current me is only one of the eyes drifting in the vast sea of information, without power or a will, so I have no obligation to answer your questions. But I still have to ask: ‘What do you know?’”
I suddenly felt a sense of weakness, almost collapsing on the floor. I tried to support myself with my palms, trying not to fall, but I really couldn’t meet Alice’s gaze. Though the air-conditioner was going strong, my neck felt really hot.
”Perhaps you did not realize yourself, but you are among the few who can look into Hinamura Souichirou’s eyes directly, but you did not dare to look at him directly today. What happened at Ueno? What are you concealing?”
That moment, words flashed past my mind. I thought, how nice it would be if I could cry or fly into a temper right now? However, I could not find a reason to do so.
Because I lack the courage, I did not speak.
”To know is to die.”
Alice’s words pierced into my heart, while I could only raise my head after her words.
”That part of you has long died, and nobody can heal it, but I am a NEET detective, a messenger of the deceased. If you wish to share death, I can do it.”
In my trembling lips, my frozen words gradually thawed.
I should have learnt a lot of lessons already. Not saying anything— that is a matter that hurts the people around us the most, and even I was once one of the victims. However, I still had to be reminded by Alice till this extent, or I would only continue to cower in my own small world.
”…… I met…… Hirasaka Renji.”
I spoke those words after some effort, and tightly bit my lip.
Alice just placed her doll on her knee. The blackness that lingered in her eyes— I think that is a color that anyone who once looked at the sky alone in a silent night saw it before.
Thus, I told her about all that had occurred, including the fact that I met Renji-san at the location where I headed to on Yondaime’s request. Which means, those were not coincidences at all. It is certain that Renji-san and I will meet, and we did indeed meet twice.
Being close friends in the past— Renji-san told me, he returned to Tokyo just to beat up his previous sworn brother to pieces. When he said that, it was like his eyes were sucking all shadows in it.
”…… I don’t know what he is planning to do, but……”
That person— seems very sad.
Having to play the fool or beating people up, if he doesn’t do one of those two, he probably can’t continue to breathe— that was what his expression said.
Even after I spoke of what I knew, Alice still maintained the silence for quite some time. The doll that I bought her was clamped between her knees, thus being flattened and changing shape. Her gaze contained neither reproach nor lament—
It was just understanding.
After a long, cold silence, Alice finally spoke.
”…… Get one for me.”
I took out a red can so cold that it almost stuck onto my fingers from the fridge, and after handing it to Alice, she did something that she never once did to me before.
After taking a sip, she passed the can to me.
”You drink it as well, all of the rest.”
I was troubled, breathless and couldn’t speak. After drinking a small sip of the beverage, its taste mixed with the taste of the cola that I shared with Renji-san in my memory.
As I slowly drank in small sips, the bubbles had long dispersed when the can became light. Thus, I drank the remaining in one go, and felt the taste of sweetness and spice trickling down the interior of my throat.
I stood up while holding the can, feeling as though Alice’s blood was silently absorbed into my body from my gut, and couldn’t look into her eyes at all.
”I’m sorry…… And thank you.”
”The one that you should apologize to should not be me, should it?”
”No matter, I do not wish for my assistant to keep being so useless as well. Treating this like I am training a dog, even if I have to do it a hundred or a thousand times, I will still teach you the same thing.”
”I will try my best.”
”No matter how hard I try to take root, grow buds and spread the tender leaves of words, the real world that I can come in contact with is still limited, after all.”
That moment, a trace of moistness finally surfaced in Alice’s eyes.
”And you are a part of that limited world.”
If we cannot express things in word, we can only wait for our world to wither away in those small palms.
They must be expressed in words.
After I walked out of the detective agency, and was walking on the dark emergency backstairs, it was coincidentally the closing time of Hanamaru Ramen. Min-san took off her tanktop, her upper body wrapped only with a white sarashi, and was washing a large pot, while Ayaka who had long removed her apron was scrubbing the floor in the kitchen.
That’s right, I wonder what happened to Pole after that. He didn’t use violence or cry while begging, did he?
”He ate five bowls of ramen and went back on Hiro’s car.”
”Is that so…… That’s fine.”
Having a healthy appetite is a proof of health, I suppose? While thinking of that, I suddenly realized that I was quite hungry as well. Unfortunately, drinking a can of Dr. Pepper cannot sate my hunger at all. The shop already closed for the day? I originally wanted to go back after eating a bowl of ramen. I looked at the large pot that was still smoking while touching my stomach. Perhaps my expression that time was somewhat sorrowful, as Min-san spoke after she noticed it.
”Huh, so you’re hungry?”
”Err…… That’s right….. Lately, my sister keeps coming back rather late, so there isn’t any dinner.”
”That’s fine. Why don’t you take this back?”
Min-san tossed a food container with three soy eggs in it to me.
”Err….. Thank you.”
”Don’t you give it to your sister! You eat them all up.”
”Expired food again! I’m very sorry, but I’m not a rubbish bin!”
”At least rubbish bins can still be used to pickle vegetables or let children play hide-and-seek in.”
”Min-san, aren’t you treating me especially cold these days?”
”It’s late now, hurry up and send Ayaka back properly!”
She actually didn’t even listen!
As I was squatting down on the asphalt road before the ramen shop in frustration, chewing on the extremely salty soy eggs, Ayaka walked out as she finished cleaning up. “Min-san, good night—!”
”Be careful! See you tomorrow!” Min-san waved behind the portiere.
”It’s fine even if you don’t wait for me!”
Looking rather happy, Ayaka pranced around me while walking.
”Well, I’m going to the station anyway.”
”But this is the first time you sent me there!”
No, there should be five or six more times now. Before the winter break, I was always free, and Ayaka—
”Ah, s- sorry, perhaps this isn’t the first time you sent me?”
Ayaka opened her arms and blocked me.
”Ah, no. Actually, I’m much more considerate that you think, Ayaka.”
”N- Nobody said that Fujishima-kun isn’t considerate or doesn’t work or does work sloppily……”
”I never said that as well.”
Ayaka laughed while escaping about five steps in front of me, turned around and said while walking backwards:
”Is that so…… So this isn’t the first time, then…… I’m even happier!”
Her words did indeed make me happy, but I still couldn’t accept it. Though Ayaka’s face was somewhat dim below the streetlights at night, she was unbearably dazzling to me, causing me to be unable to look at her directly.
Ayaka lost a lot of things in the incident that happened last winter, including the memories when we first met. Even so, she still returned to Hanamaru Ramen, returning to my side.
The Ayaka right now can already face the matters that had turned into nothingness with a smile, but if it were to be me, I probably couldn’t do it. That was why I felt that she was dazzling.
”But…… It’s fine that you’re okay, because you looked terrible when you returned to the ramen shop just now, Fujishima-kun.”
It seems like I’m really easily read. This is not a good situation.
”But you looked much better after returning from Alice’s place.”
So sorry, I’m a simple man.
”If it were to be me, I probably can’t do it. I don’t know what I have to do for Fujishima-kun to be willing to confide so many things in me. So Alice is really great!”
Can you please not speak as though I’m a troublesome rare beast?
”I’m just a student working part time at a ramen shop, so I don’t understand things that are too hard. That can’t be helped as well.”
”It’s not much, Alice didn’t do anything special as well. She just treated me to a can of Dr. Pepper. After taking a sip, she gave the rest to me. To be honest, it doesn’t really taste good and felt sorrowful, but well, it’s like I just calmed down.”
Ayaka suddenly made a pose of surrender, looking extremely taken aback. Her way of expressing her shock was still the same as the time before she lost her memories.
”You were forced to drink it all? The one that Alice took a sip out of?”
”Eh? Mnn, that’s right.”
”T- T- That! Tha- That won’t do! Fujishima-kun, what were you thinking!”
Ayaka suddenly approached, frantically hitting my arm. What the heck? What happened?
”Please take out your phone and call Alice!”
Ayaka’s expression scared me, so I hurriedly called Alice as she instructed me to. As soon as the call went through, the phone was immediately snatched away by her.
”Is it Alice? It’s me, Ayaka! I heard from Fujishima-kun about the matter that you lethim drink Dr. Pepper!”
Ayaka started to lecture her through the phone:
”Listen closely, even if it’s indirect, things that can’t be done just can’t! Don’t you realize that Fujishima-kun touched the can that you drank from with his mouth? Think about it in detail what that means!”
I finally understood the topic that they were talking about and fell into a daze. Ayaka pressed my cellphone on my ear in anger.
’Narumi! You- You shameless fool!’
Again? If you didn’t notice from the start, why don’t you just be ignorant about this forever!
After I was scolded by Alice with tons of incomprehensible words, Ayaka finally hung up for me and stuffed the phone into my pocket.
”Fujishima-kun, please take more notice of these things as well!”
”Okay, fine….. But is this really a matter that you have to mind so much? Like Tetsu-senpai and Major, they steal my ramen from a side when they don’t have money on them as well!”
”But Alice is a girl!”
On the course of being scolded, we unknowingly arrived at the station. Coincidentally, a bus was flashing its blinding backlights as well, and was about to stop by the road. Though Ayaka seemed to have something more to say, she just sprinted towards the station after a goodbye in the end. The large, dusty bus sprayed out exhaust gas on my face, and it gradually left while going along the river.
Today was a long day. The me right now shouldn’t actually be a character who lives in the dreams of the capybaras at the Ueno zoo, right? And perhaps I was about to be eaten by the tapirs as well. While imagining idiotic matters, I walked towards the dark streets with my back to the rivers.
It was already past midnight when I finally returned home. Though it was the last attack of the day— as soon as I walked into the entrance, I was given a punch by my sister.
”Though nobody cares how long you don’t go home or which street you die of starvation on, you should at least handle the clothes that you wash. How long did you hang them there for? And also, remember to clean up the house!”
While rubbing on the bruise on my head, I walked to my bedroom on the second floor. The bed was piled up with underwear with square pegs sill on them, shirts, towels and other garments. When I saw the scene, lethargy because of overwork for the day (probably) caused my brain that was in denial to spread to my eyelids, neck, shoulders, arms, abdomen, thighs, calves and other locations, making me collapse directly into the hill of clothes. I can’t go on. Though I haven’t bathed or brushed my teeth, and was quite hungry as well…… Good night, I’m going to sleep.
However, the touch of protruding threads on my face caused my nearly closed eyes to open once more.
It was a white T-shirt. Only the collar and the sleeves were black, while the shoulder and abdomen part were spread with colorful, radial embroidery. It was the shirt that Renji-san wore that time. Ah, I brought it back for washing.
I pushed the other clothing away, lying down on my bed and spread the T-shirt open under the lights. I remember that he said that this is a very important shirt, so I must return it to him. But how can I meet that person again? Besides, I don’t even know if he would contact me again. Since Renji-san kept investigating Yondaime, learning of our relationship is only a matter of time.
Knowing that I am a person helping Hirasaka-gumi.
Him and I— are actually enemies.
After some thought, I realized that this was the point that I was so worried of— I do not wish to go against that person. This is different from the time when I fought Tetsu-senpai, because it’s obvious that Renji-san is deliberately making trouble. Because of that, it made me feel even sadder.
But the saddest person would probably be—
As I was about to throw the T-shirt aside, I suddenly saw something with the corner of my eye. On a triangular hanger not far from me, there was a black T-shirt. Hirasaka-gumi’s uniform.
I sprang upwards, taking the black and white shirts, spreading them open.
The swallowtail butterfly emblem printed in front of the black T-shirt and the embroidery on Renji-san’s shirt— after the two overlapped, I finally realized it. This isn’t a radial embroidery at all, but is actually a part of the swallowtail butterfly emblem. Perhaps this is an incomplete work? As a lot of colored threads must be used, such a mystifying state that looks like fireworks would be presented if the product hasn’t been finished yet.
This shirt is important— I remember that Renji-san once said that.
He was probably referring to this, right? The ‘thing most important to each other’ that Yondaime and Renji-san exchanged. Because Yondaime’s tailoring skills are great, he made this himself…… But that doesn’t seem right. According to Hiro-san it is something formless that people can’t see so easily.
How confusing. I placed the two shirts on my knee and lied down again.
’I thought that no matter how long I live, I probably won’t be able to have a more important friend than that guy.’
The words that Renji-san said and the taste of the cola that we drank kept swirling in my mind.
If that’s true—
The person who is the saddest should be Yondaime, right?
Because he hid the matter of the storeroom key for quite some time as well. I think he is a calm person who would think carefully of all possibilities before taking an appropriate action, and might even be a more suitable candidate to be a detective than me. But such a person actually……
Perhaps he did not wish to believe such a truth? I hope that’s so.
If so, what should I do then?
I already reached my limits when I thought about that. The lethargy frozen in my body started to thaw, assaulting my eyelids like an avalanche caused when spring arrives. I slept so well that I didn’t even dream.
After noon next day, the weather gradually turned bad, and the wind started to strengthen as well. It felt like there would be a thunderstorm after noon. Because of that, I placed the T-shirt that Renji-san asked me to keep into two layers of plastic bags and kept it in my backpack, walking outside after that. Just updating the promotional website of the band and the blog took me the whole morning, so it wasn’t too long until the appointed time for a meeting.
Yondaime stayed at the innermost room of the Hirasaka-gumi office— a storeroom having beds, not-too-tall moveable bookshelves, desks, chairs and other articles kept messily in the room. He was typing on the keyboard while talking on the phone. Before this, Yondaime was clueless about the usage of computers, but after I gave him some lessons, he improved so much that he could handle the computer of his own gang. That was why the time he stayed in the room increased quite a lot recently, allowing us to meet alone. That would be a great opportunity.
”Aren’t you going to a CD firm four in the afternoon? You’re going with the designer, right? Don’t come here if you don’t have any business to do with me.”
After hanging up, Yondaime continued to type with his eyes glued to the monitor. Grasping even my own schedule, he’s such a scary person.
”I have some business with you!”
”If it’s about Renji, I don’t want to listen. Hiro came over here and made a huge fuss yesterday, so you’re probably lectured by Alice as well, right? This is none of your busine—“
”I met Renji-san.”
While I was thinking that Yondaime’s seat turned around, I was grabbed on the collar the next instant and was flung to the wall. The eyes of a wolf blazing with strong flames of fury appeared before me.
”…… Very…… Sorry…… For not telling you this, but……”
”I’m asking you when and where you met him!”
”About Renji-san…… Yondaime probably didn’t request anything to Alice, right? So I don’t have any reason to tell you about this.”
Vigorous pain caused my vision to blur, and my legs were already touching air. Yondaime lifted me, causing the back of my head to hit the wall behind.
”Enough with the chatter! Speak!”
”Then please…… Request…… Al- ice……” My voice was disconnected. “We are detectives, and we exist just for these times.”
Yondaime flung me to the bed.
”Stop the fuss! How can I allow a matter of my kin to spread like this!”
”Aren’t I one of your kin as well!”
I unconsciously raised my voice in answer, causing my hurt throat to ache and then cough vigorously.
”So you can’t say anything to me? Aren’t you and Renji-san companions? I heard that even the sake that you shared was equal, but what happened after that? Did you really break off all relations with him?”
”That’s right, it happened long ago. We aren’t brothers anymore.”
”Because of a failure to keep promises, it’s the same for the both of us. That’s why Renji couldn’t stay in the gang anymore, that’s all. If he’s still hating me until now, that’s fine, I’ll just kill him!”
Hates him? He still hates Yondaime right now?
I don’t understand. I don’t even know what happened, so how could I understand how much sorrow was engraved in the eyes hidden below the goggles-styled sunglasses?
However, when I spread out the item covered in a plastic from my backpack, it was like cracks appeared on Yondaime’s face.
”You probably know this T-shirt, right? Renji-san forgot to take it away. We just met each other in coincidence, so I almost didn’t ask him anything, but…… But that person said that this shirt is very important, and that I must return it to him.”
Yondaime heaved a large sigh and leaned on the back of the seat, while I crossed the bed to sit by Yondaime.
”I heard that you exchanged things important to each other, right? Was this shirt sewn by you?”
”Who did you hear this from?”
Pole once said that this had almost turned into a legend now, while Hiro-san knows it as well.
Yondaime threw his cellphone to the bed and spat out: “Useless.”
”It’s not something that is visible at all. It’s something done just for looks, and Renji should have forgotten it long ago.”
So the T-shirt is indeed not it? But I still continued.
”But wasn’t this sewn by Yondaime? It’s the emblem of the gang!”
”It was not me.”
Is it possible that he just doesn’t want to admit it? However, Yondaime pointed at the abdomen and shoulders part of the T-shirt in my hands and said:
”Look closely. The pattern on the side abdomen is 1.3 times larger than the part of the shoulders, and so that the tone of the colors would look the same, the arrangement of the embroidery has some changes, and it’s formed by uploading the pattern of the embroidery into a computer and enlarging it. How could I do such a thing?”
I looked at the unfinished emblem in a daze, and looked at Yondaime’s face after that.
Yondaime was right. To Yondaime, who did not know how to use a computer before I taught him to, it’s impossible for him to do such an embroidery. However—
Yondaime indeed knows about the embroidery on the T-shirt.
”The person who sewn this was a woman called Hison.”
Yondaime turned his face away.
…… A woman? And Hison…... Is she a Korean? She’s…… the person living together with Yondaime, his girlfriend?
”This woman isn’t here anymore. I couldn’t protect her, and Renji couldn’t do that as well. That’s all.”
When Yondaime stopped talking, I couldn’t continue my questions as well. It’s the same for the questions about Renji-san and that woman. After that, there was a soft silence, as though the floorboards in the room were layered with chilly mercury.
”Can you contact Renji?”
I didn’t realize that it was a question directed at me for a moment.
”…… Eh? Ah…… Well……”
If I shake my head right now, it seems like even my bones would be bitten to pieces by him.
”He doesn’t have a phone, but I told him my number before this.”
”Tell me if he calls. I want to kill him.”
I couldn’t help but gulp, but I truly shook my head in refusal.
Yondaime glared at me with his mouth closed.
”Renji-san…… is a friend that I met coincidentally at Harajuku and reunited at Ueno, that’s all. To me……”
”Stop your blabbering. Don’t you know that he’s going against us?”
”I will reconfirm this with Renji-san myself. I still don’t wish to believe this.”
”You just met him twice, so what do you know?”
”Didn’t you refuse to believe this at first as well, Yondaime? That was why you hid the matter of the storeroom key.”
After I finished speaking, my vision immediately shook vigorously. An impact caused hot air to be spat out from my mouth, my body was bent into half, and I finally felt the vigorous pain on my abdomen that moment. Yondaime’s iron punch had landed on my stomach, making me feel nauseous, and could only suppress the pain while trembling with one hand on the bed.
”You just need to do your own job. Tell Alice and Hiro about this as well!”
After that, Yondaime walked out of the room. The room was filled with a powdered darkness and solemnity, but I lied down on the bed, unable to move for quite some time.
I searched for the T-shirt that I kept for Renji-san.
Pretending that I cannot see a dark world like this, only looking at the silhouette of the band that is about to step into the spotlight, and then awaiting Yondaime to break Renji-san— Or Renji-san to break Yondaime to a state impossible to save, and only wait. Is this really my job?
I definitely won’t stand for such a thing!
”So this is the building of Sou-san’s office? That’s cool!”
Mika-san looked at the signboard of Hirasaka Office hung on the building, crying out in excitement. She was the young female event planner. She wore a tight fitting shirt and a miniskirt, making me regret a lot that I asked to meet her before the office. But Mika-san did wish to see what kind of place Hirasaka-gumi is, so it couldn’t be helped. After all, the CD firm that we were going to was quite near, so meeting here was quite convenient as well.
”And we have bodyguards as well! Fujishima-san, you’re really awesome! You’re giving off the presence of a bigshot!”
”Not really, this is…… Well……” I turned around in a headache.
”Yes sir! We will protect Aniki and the client!” “We shall now hone our manly aura!”
They were the number one in height, Pole, and the number one in width, Rocky, from Hirasaka-gumi. If the two take action at the same time, they might be able to block even nuclear bombs, but they were extremely visible. Added with the fact that they were forbidden to wear their black T-shirt uniform, the two of them wore idiotic clothes with ‘Courage’ ‘Chivalry’ and the like on it. How can I bring these kind of people out to the streets? However, the two said that it was an order from their leader, completely refusing to leave. Yondaime thought that I might already be treated as one of the accomplices helping Hirasaka-gumi by Renji-san and the others, so going out might be dangerous. Treating me so coldly before this but doing this right now, I really don’t know what he’s thinking of.
In any case, he’s just too much of a busybody— And there isn’t just me today as well.
”Erm…… We’re visiting companies and shops today. They’ll be scared, so please don’t follow us.”
”We’ll definitely do our job as a bodyguard properly!” “We’ll definitely glare at them until they don’t dare to say even one word!”
I didn’t even want to answer them. When we visited Tower Records, I took the chance to slip away with Mika-san, successfully throwing Pole and Rocky off our track.
”Aniki! Where are you, Aniki!” “Idiot, calm down. Hurry up and ask the shopkeepers!”
”W- What’s the matter? What are you looking for?”
”Fujishima, Fujishima Narumi! What? Type? What type?”
”Aniki should be, erm…… the same type as Takeuchi Riki-san and Aikawa Shou-san!”
”…… I- Is that so? Then he might be in the drama, songs, or movie soundtrack department……”
”Okay, let’s go to the drama department!” “Aniki isn’t here!” “You guys, actually lying to us!”
The people at Tower, so sorry. We hurriedly dashed into a door with ‘Staff Only’ writted on it, and could finally greet the person in charge of indie bands peacefully. And of course, we escaped from the scene from the back door after our discussion ended as well. Judging from the two’s brains, thinking of a solution like calling us directly would probably take half a day.
”Is it really fine leaving the bodyguards there?”
Instead of saying that she was worried, Mika-san looked more disappointed instead. Is bringing hooligans around really so fun?
”It’s okay, the people in the gang are just too worried. I’m just a high schooler working part time.”
”But Fujishima-san is indeed talented, so it’s really too much of a pity for you to be a student working part time. To be honest, are you interested in jobs like this after you graduate?”
When Mika-san said that, we were just passing by a crowded station, making me stare at her as I thought I heard wrong.
”We’re going to the company making merchandise, and they’re interested in the T-shirts with the band logo on it as well. The black thrush can be sold as a cartoon character as well…… And then, some blogs are really interested as well.”
”Isn’t that just fine? I just wrote all of the things that happened on it.”
”But for example, the capybara article, all of the workers in our company laughed so much about it! I thought that it was content completely unrelated to the band, making me worry while laughing, but it actually had some connections in the end, giving me a huge shock!”
It’s an official blog informing the others of the event news after all……
”You’re probably suited for writing essays, huh?”
…… Aren’t I more suited for becoming a salaryman? That was just a conclusion in comparism, but I never thought of such a thing before— never thinking that I might have other choices other than becoming a NEET.
”I can understand the gang worrying for you. If anything happens to Fujishima-san, they’ll be very troubled.”
”Not really, they just like to play yakuza games. I’m not a bigshot that needs bodyguards to protect me.”
However, my opinion seemed to be wrong. I should have trusted Yondaime’s intuition instead.
After passing the Shinjuku south exit, the pedestrians on the street decreased visibly. I heard that the company making merchandise made merchandise of characters of game companies as well, and its structure was quite large. I never thought that it would be near the neighboring Hachimanjuu, a peaceful area unlike commercial districts.
We turned left at Meiji Street, and was passing by Wins, a horse betting company. As it was a normal day, it was rather dark and empty, without any other pedestrians there except for us. Even so, I didn’t notice the gradually approaching footsteps as I was thinking of what Mika-san said.
All of a sudden, silhouettes appeared at both of our sides, and started to chase us. I stopped because of a bad feeling and pulled on the string of Mika-san’s handbag.
As Mika-san was turning around, I felt a huge impact on my abdomen. I nearly fell down, but my shoulders were forcibly grabbed and pulled up. What came into my view was a black uniform with a white swallowtail butterfly emblem printed on it, frizzy long hair bleached blonde with the black visible that looked like pudding, a muddy gaze and noserings. The person who seemed to be a delinquent wore a nauseating smile, and caught hold of my shirt, adding a kick on my abdomen with his kneecap.
As my body bent in pain, my back was assaulted with a follow-up attack that seemed to have been from an elbow, and I could only squat down on the road. I was about to guard with my arms, but was kicked by my opponent on my side abdomen through the cracks, making me feel that my gastric juices were about to spill out.
”S- Stop that! What are you doing!”
I suddenly heard Mika-san’s wails, and tried to stand up. My arms seemed to be bleeding because they scratched the asphalt road. In my vision that blurred because of pain, I saw a handbag and high heeled shoes flying away, while Mika-san’s small body could not be seen as she was pressed down by two men in black shirts. I only understood on that moment that there were actually three assaulters.
”Y- You guys! Let go!”
I shouted with blood mixed in my saliva while preparing to grab the man from his back, but was kicked on my head, and I collapsed into a garden by the road. Only swallowtail butterfly emblems came into my view— it’s them, the ones who stole the uniforms and made trouble everywhere— Renji-san’s—
I struggled to crawl out from the garden but my neck was immediately grabbed and I was pressed on the scorching road. On the other side of my view, I saw Mika-san frantically flailing her hands with her mouth covered. It looked like she was hurt somewhere, as the blood flowing to her neck stained her shirt red.
”What now? Should we break a few bones first?”
”Aren’t these two in charge of promotion? Shouldn’t we make them unable to talk?”
”What should we do if we kill them accidentally? Hirasaka-san didn’t tell us to do things till this extent.”
”Then let’s just hospitalize them for two months.”
The black shirted men spoke chilling words while wearing ominous smiles. While feeling that the heat in my body seemed to be flowing out from my body along with the blood on my hand, I understood one thing.
They came for Mika-san and I— Which means, we were followed, and might already be targeted from the moment we walked out from the Hirasaka-gumi office. Yondaime’s worries were accurate. I underestimated our enemies too much, and that was how I ended up like. I was forced to stand after my hand was twisted to my back, the joints of my shoulders screeching. As I was about to call out for help, the tip of a shoe flew towards my mouth once again, while the taste of blood covered my cry. The sounds of Mika-san’s sobbing pierced into my ears. What am I doing? Go! Struggle! Must I keep getting beaten up like this!? Severe pain surged from my scapula to the top of my head, crushing my resolution. Once again, I collapsed on the road stained red because of my blood, while the ringing noise of my bones seemed to have came into my ears through my muscles.
All of a sudden, the weight restraining me disappeared.
The ground shook. A shadow flew and fell by my side. It was one of the nasty men in black T-shirts— he lied there with the whites of his eyes showing.
I looked upwards in surprise, and half of my vision blocked by blood was carved open by the strong sunlight. The silhouette of a large person blocked the sunlight, standing between Mika-san and I.
”You guys, what are you doing in front of the holy Wins?”
Strong muscles caused the back of the shirt to appear tight, while his arms were thick and sturdy like wires used in lifts. Horse magazines and pachinko magazines were stuffed in the back pocket of the creased jeans.
”Oi, Narumi. I don’t think I saw these guys before, are they new members?”
I made an odd cry. The face that turned around to look at me was indeed Tetsu-senpai’s.
”Why are you fighting with the men in Hirasaka-gumi at a place like this in broad daylight? Is it because of that? Being unpopular with girls, so you guys are letting it out on Narumi—“
The man on the right who was holding Mika-san twisted her hand to an unnatural direction in tension, while Mika-san, whose mouth was covered, twisted her face because of the severe pain and moaned. That moment, Tetsu-senpai’s fists lashed out, hitting the man’s face accurately with a clear, chilling sound, while the man collapsed on the ground with blood spurting out, releasing his hand grabbing Mika-san as well. On the next instant, the man on the left was punched on the neck and collapsed on the asphalt road as well.
”What the heck! Oi, miss, are you okay? Oi, Narumi, you’re really badly beaten up! Hey, don’t sleep! This lady is bleeding as well, hey! My phone number was cut as I don’t have any money right now, so hurry up and let me borrow your phone. Do we need an ambulance?”
Tetsu-senpai’s slightly rough voice was especially pleasing to the ears that moment, and I never felt that before or after that. Senpai called people after fishing out my phone from my pocket, and almost directly hauled Mika-san and I towards the direction of the station.
” Niigata Horse Racing Alley is overwhelmingly beautiful. Well, the grassy lanes seemed to keep extending and extending towards the blue skies! And there wasn’t much of an audience, so it was quite cool. As it was too comfortable, I slept in a sleeping bag for ten days or so in front of their entrance.”
”Tetsu, it seems like you’re already prepared to step into the ranks of vagrants.”
Hiro-san smiled wryly.
”If I lost the last bet yesterday, then I really had to walk back to Tokyo.”
”Why don’t you just live directly in Niigata?”
”I’ll freeze to death in winter.”
As for me— I shivered while sitting down on a hard chair, staring at the door of the treatment room, not in the mood to chatter along with them at all.
As Mika-san was so hurt that she couldn’t walk, Tetsu-senpai asked Hiro-san to fetch us, sending Mika-san to the hospital nearest to us after that, which would be the large hospital that Ayaka lived in before this. My injuries weren’t too serious, but Mika-san’s treatment hasn’t ended yet. Being bathed in the smell of disinfectants all around us, I felt a pain as though my whole body was flattened.
”Well…… I was already used to sleeping on a pile of horse betting coupons. When I went back to Tokyo, I was unconsciously attracted nearby Wins again, and in the end, I noticed Narumi with an unfamiliar woman being beaten half to death by people in the gang. Tell me, how can you do a tsukkomi on him in such a situation?”
”Narumi-kun, it’s fortunate that your luck is good……”
Hiro-san said in a sighing tone and looked at me.
That’s right, it was just good luck. If Tetsu-senpai wasn’t there that time— How would the situation turn out? I tightly held my arm bandaged because of my injuries.
I was too naive. Saying something prideful like ’I count as a person in the gang as well’ to Yondaime, I actually dared to think that I wouldn’t get involved in acts of violence?
”Then what now? Why didn’t you contact Yondaime? Isn’t this a dispute in the gang?”
”Ahhh…… Well…...” Hiro-san winked at me. As Tetsu-senpai was completely clueless about the situation, he thought that the men in black shirts were members of Hirasaka-gumi.
I really didn’t want to explain, and informing Yondaime of such an incident made me feel downcast as well.
However, both of them were still my jobs.
I told Tetsu-senpai about the ins and outs of the matter, and it was already twilight when the three of us walked out of the hospital. On the way to the parking lot, we did not say even one word. Hiro-san’s expression was quite heavy as well, as it was the first time I told him the fact that I actually met Renji-san some time ago.
Hiro-san finally spoke when we were in a traffic jam while passing through Meiji Street.
”I’m going to the hospital tomorrow as well. What about you, Narumi-kun?”
Sitting by the driver’s seat, I looked at the band-aids and bandages covering my hand and shook my head.
Just to be safe, Mika-san had to stay in the hospital for one day for further observation, as it seemed like she had symptoms of internal hemorrhage. The one who listened to the doctor’s report was Hiro-san, so I wasn’t too sure about the details. As it would complicate matters if I, as a high school student, appear, I just stayed at the waiting area like a turtle.
I really don’t know how I am going to face Mika-san now.
I heard Tetsu-senpai heave a long sigh on the back seat.
”It seems like things are turning out to be quite troublesome! Speaking of which, why didn’t Yondaime ask for my help? If he just told me about this, I’d have dashed back here immediately.”
”I gave you quite a few calls! Running off to a faraway place like Niigata, and your phone number was cut as well!”
Hiro-san repeatedly pounded on the steering wheel.
”Well, that’s true. Ahahaha…… Hiro, why did you do a tsukkomi on me! Isn’t that Narumi’s job……? Oi, Narumi, what’s wrong with you? You don’t look too good. Is your head hurt as well?”
”…… How can I still look good……?”
Even I felt unmotivated when I heard the weak voice that I spoke with.
”Why does this guy look so dejected?”
”Probably because a girl saw him looking weak?”
Of course not! However…… That might have a slight truth in it.
”I just feel like…… I’m just all talk and no action.”
”You’re talking about this only now? Narumi doesn’t have any strong points other than his talk, everyone knows about that!”
”Hey, Tetsu, don’t speak of things so plainly! Narumi-kun is about to cry now.”
Hiro-san, you’re cruel as well! I hugged my knees on the seat.
Hiro-san suggested to pass the message to Yondaime in my stead, but I shook my head in refusal. Tetsu-senpai is right. If I don’t even dare to speak out loud, I’d really become a useless person. I must do this myself. But what to do after that?
”Narumi-kun, are you still going on with the job? I suggest that it’s better for you to stop.”
I shook my head in response, but actually, I know that it’s just a useless show of strength.
”…… Hmm, is that so? Then I won’t say anything more. After all, it’s Narumi-kun’s own decision.”
I thought to myself, what did I decide?
When I used my hands to cover my face, the injuries on my neck and my hands started to ache faintly.
Those people took action because of Renji-san’s orders. The fact stuck in the depths of my throat.
Up till yesterday, I kept wishing to convince Yondaime to request Alice to handle the case. Now that the time for the concert is approaching, it is a very important time to Yondaime, and I think that he doesn’t have the time to handle such troublesome matters as well. If he acts recklessly, his credibility will be doubted as well.
But if he hands the case to the detective— Not only Alice, even Tetsu-senpai, Hiro-san and Major could help. The problem is, the stubborn NEETs could only pretend that nothing happened before that. Actually, it was a matter of personal pride as well, as the small, comfortable world that is direct, and does not ask the others of their privacy has a delicate balance, so that’s why it turned out like this.
But even if Yondaime hands the case to Alice right now, so what? If Renji-san isn’t caught, the case cannot be closed. But if it’s for a result like this— Can I still continue the job as an assistant detective?
You just met twice, what do you know? Yondaime’s voice resounded by my ears again. That’s right. That person is just an enemy— how nice if I could just think like that?
The disputes in my head did not have any trace of loosening, and I heard Tetsu-senpai’s mumblings that moment.
”Oi, Narumi. Renji…… Does he look okay?”
I couldn’t raise my head at all. Meeting senpai’s gaze if I turned around, facing his gentle words…… It scared me.
”That guy’s view of money is almost zero. Does he look like he’s still eating right? Or does he still like to crack lame jokes like before?”
”…… That’s right.”
I squeezed out an answer in a hoarse voice with some effort.
”That’s fine. No matter how bad his environment is, it’s unreasonable no matter how you look at eat……”
I felt Tetsu-senpai forcefully press his fist on the back of my seat.
”It’s fine as long as we’re still alive. We can still fight.”
…… That was what Narumi told me! Hearing Tetsu-senpai’s last words almost made me cry.
As long as…… We’re still alive.
When I got down from the car at the charged parking lot near Hanamaru Ramen, I met Major coincidentally. “Eh? So it wasn’t Vice Admiral Fujishima who got hospitalized?”
How can anyone say such a thing to the others straight on!
”Oh, Tetsu-san, so you’re really back? How’s the Niigata Horce Racing Alley?”
Major repeatedly shook his military backpack almost twice the size of his small body, walking to the back door of the car after that.
”I originally thought that it would be a world of ice and snow, but the temperature was quite normal. I could sleep on the streets thanks to that.”
”To me, who once underwent a week-long simulated battle of defense at Goryoukaku, Niigata is a southern land that is fine to me even if I go out naked.”
Is there something wrong with your brain? Goryoukaku is a national monument, don’t treat it as a site for your survival games!
”I saved the money for the lodgings and Shinkansen, betting all of it on the Four Boxes of the Triple Team, and the difference of the last match was so small that it had to be determined with a video. I’d have jumped directly into the Sea of Japan.”
”The coupon that you bought was the Ten Thousand Horses Coupon, right? How much did you win?”
”I got my money back just by winning one match, so I came back in a luxurious business compartment. It’s because of this that horse racing is so irresistible!”
I stared at the silhouettes of the three walking towards the ramen shop, not moving even an inch.
I would get filmed by surveillance cameras if I approach the building, but I don’t want Alice to see me. I got quite a few calls from her when I was in the hospital, but I didn’t pick up the phone as I didn’t know what to say to her.
”Oi, Tetsu, I heard that! You won a bet using a Ten Thousand Horses Coupon?” Min-san’s voice echoed from the ramen shop. “Hurry up and clear your tab for the ramen!”
”No, they’re funds for the future!” “Shut up and stop fussing! Pay up!”
Tetsu-senpai was caught by Min-san, who rushed out from the kitchen backdoor, with a head locking technique, and was directly dragged into the ramen shop, while Major and Hiro-san laughed while following.
On the other hand, I blankly stood by Hiro-san’s car, silently listening to the conversation of the NEET Detective Squad from the gap between the buildings.
”Blast, my wallet turned really thin…… Go, call Yondaime here for a gamble. Doesn’t he have quite some money on him recently?”
”I’m telling you that he’s in a critical time right now! Weren’t you listening to Narumi-kun?”
”He didn’t request Alice, did he? Then let’s not care about him.”
”Tetsu-san, calling someone over here and swindling his money, this can’t count as ‘not care about him’.”
”Tetsu swindles the others as natural as breathing, so isn’t that the same as not caring about him?”
”Strictly speaking, Yondaime is quite stingy recently. For instance, I was just called to check out the locks in his office, and didn’t get much of a payment.”
”Eh? Even Major isn’t doing anything? Like wiretapping and the like?”
”I didn’t get any request.”
”That can’t be helped.” “Yeah, can’t be helped.” “If so, bothering him in such a critical moment isn’t too good, so why don’t we play three-man-mahjong?” “Great! I have a new winning theory recently—“
The seemingly happy conversation came into my ears. They were still the same— Though they were companions with Yondaime and the Renji-san before this, they looked as though they didn’t care at all.
I realized that I was rather irritable. You guys really plan not to do anything? If he doesn’t give you a request, you’ll just continue to stay idle? When you’re doing such a thing, Renji-san—
I bit my lip. I knew that it was useless if I did such a thing, and the anger was just directed at myself. The reason that Tetsu-senpai and the others do such a thing is because of their pride as NEETs. What about me? Not only being unable to do anything…… It’s possible that I don’t even know what I want to do.
That night, I kept looking at my phone while lying on my bed after I returned.
Alice would call me each hour, and there were five in total. She even left a message on her last call.
’Why are you not picking up the phone?! Listen well, remember to report to me on a regular basis, a regular basis! I do not know what happened to you, but since you were not hospitalized, you can at least call me back!’
You obviously know what’s with me…… Besides, I never heard of a rule asking me to report to her on a regular basis. I really wasn’t in the mood to call her back, so I just sent her a short message with the words ‘I’m fine’.
After that, I sent a message to Mika-san as an apology. Though there were only three short sentences, it took me an hour. If she wishes to see the message, she’ll have to wait until she returns to her company even if she goes out from the hospital tomorrow. If so, why didn’t I just look for her at the hospital directly? But I couldn’t do it. Though I was the person who dragged her in this……
As I tossed my phone aside, and was lying on my bed without even turning off the lights, Renji-san called.
Though it was a private number, intuition told me that it was most probably from Renji-san.
’Narumi? Is this Narumi’s phone?’
A slightly hoarse voice that was good to hear came from the phone.
’Oh, good. Though I look like this, I actually like cleanliness quite a lot. I washed my hands a lotta times, nearly washin’ away yer number that I copied down as well. In the end, the number couldn’t be seen, and I tried for almost twenty times now. Yahoo— Great, great!’
I had the feeling that something that couldn’t be melted in my heart was about to thaw, so I could only suppress the impulse, switching my phone to my other hand.
’How are yer injuries? Are they serious?’
Being asked like that so directly, I could only suppress my convoluted emotions.
”…… I’m fine, not too badly hurt. I just had some scratches and cuts.”
’Really? That’s fine.’
…… That’s all? I nearly blurted that out. However, his actions were correct. If he really apologized to me, how should I answer him?
’So the fact that we met twice weren’t coincidences, it’s the same for Harajuku and Ueno— because our aims were actually the same. I wonder, is such a fate good, or is it bad?’
Renji-san’s tone was the same as yesterday, as though we don't known each other’s identities yet, and can joke while hitting the other. I couldn’t differentiate whether it was his merit or his weakness. It might be both of them. Actually, there are things that are both of them in this world in the first place.
’That’s right, Narumi. When are ya free?’
I suddenly thought, this is probably time for the dream of a capybara to stop, right? From the second time that I met Renji-san, the dream still continued, but is it finally time for us to wake up on this instant? Including the fire alarm at the livehouse, the assault when I was with Mika-san, all of them were—
But my cheeks that had a phone pressed to it still ached, so this isn’t a dream.
Thus, I tried to speak in a rigid tone.
”I’m free any time, tomorrow is fine as well.”
’Then let’s meet tomorrow. Mnn—’
The tones of Renji-san and I were like we were trying not to touch the wounds just formed, and were just washing the wound with water, confirming a time and location for us to mee.
’Don’t tell Sou about this…… Actually, this should be an unreasonable request, huh?’
The end of Renji-san’s sentence was soft and tender.
’It’s fine if ya bring a few more people, but remember to bring the T-shirt! That thing is really important.’
”Disregard Hirasaka-gumi for the moment, aren’t you worried that I might call the police?”
As my voice turned husky, I could only swallow frantically to wet my throat.
”Why meet face to face? You can just tell me to send it somewhere…… Or something like that.”
A silence followed after the echo. What is he hesitating for? At the same time when I was thinking, a question seemed to seep out from my tongue— Do I really want to do such a thing?
’That’s true, but I can’t see Narumi if ya just send it over.’
I stood up from my bed, sitting down on my wooden floorboards while hugging my knees, thighs tightly pressed against my abdomen. If I didn’t do that, the heated emotions that surged to my throat would have directly shot out.
’I’ll have to meet again to explain properly.’
I blankly stared at the white, embroidered T-shirt spread messily on the floorboard.
”I will go alone. I have something to say to Renji-san as well.”
After hanging up, I finally stood up and picked up the T-shirt I was keeping for Renji-san. The butterfly that cannot fly because of a lack of wings spread on white snow.
It was quite some time until daybreak.
However, I still folded the T-shirt and stuffed it into my backpack, walking outside. The warmth of the afternoon sun still lingered faintly on the seat of my bike.
”You actually dare to appear before me with a look like this!”
With a look of displeasure, Alice stood on the bed in the NEET Detective Agency that had the air conditioner going strong, just like Nio.
”Disregarding my warnings, you came in contact with the world without order, was involved in an incident of violence as though it was natural, and put on bandages as well! And you actually dare to appear here shamelessly. Even though it is already this time.’
”This time? Alice, aren’t you always awake?”
As Alice’s attitude was as usual, my relief caused me to blurt out a small tsukkomi.
”This is the time when the servers are undergoing maintenance, a golden time for cracking passwords. I have no time to care about a person whose brain is only filled with daydreams like you.”
”Is that so…… I’m sorry…… Well, actually I am not here because of anything special at all.”
After hearing my words, even the intelligent Alice looked rather dazed. After all, since it’s two in the morning, it isn’t a time when one can visit the others without a reason.
”I don’t know why…… But I just wanted to see Alice.”
”W- W- W- What are you talking about!”
Alice sprang to the other side of the bed.
”I am very busy right now. If you wish to look for someone to play with you, are there not many night owls before the station or at the center of the city?”
I never thought that I would actually get such a serious scolding, how depressing. However, it’s quite normal when I think about it. Actually, the true reason that I came here was because I already don’t know how to deal with Renji-san’s matter, and was thinking that talking things over might clear away the confusion in my mind……
”Sorry, I’ll just go back then……”
When I carried my backpack and stood up, Alice immediately crawled over from her bed.
”What do you mean by going back right now? Useless fellow! At least think of a better excuse and answer me on the spot!”
”But…… Aren’t I being an eyesore? Didn’t you ask me to scram?”
”I neither said that you are an eyesore nor told you to get out!”
……. I really don’t understand you.
”S- Since you are here now!”
Alice continued to sit on her bed, prancing on it as though it was a trampoline.
”You get three cans of Dr. Pepper over here…… Ahh! T- They are not for you! I shall drink them all!”
I know that! Alice drank all of the nauseating carbonated drinks that I brought out from the fridge and opened for her, piling the empty cans on a small table at a side after that.
”My main point is, what were you doing? Living like an eel out of season rolling in a quagmire, going on without a purpose. Did you not know long ago what you should do?”
That’s right, I should have known it long ago. Convincing Yondaime to request for Alice’s help, thinking of a way for us to step into the battle between him and Renji-san after that.
”Perhaps you did not believe it although I said it so many times, and is feeling the terror of violence after a few jabs, and is planning to draw back?”
”No, that’s not true…… Well, perhaps just a little.”
Indeed, after I was beaten up, I finally understood something.
That would be the profound hatred between Yondaime and Renji-san that almost reached despair. Both of them treated destroying the other party as their aim, and the hatred directly involved me, and even Mika-san was dragged into it— I finally realized that it was really hard to turn back.
If Yonadime really requested Alice to handle the case, Tetsu-senpai, Hiro-san, Major and I must dash with the purpose of defeating Renji-san. Can I really handle such a thing?
With a speechless expression, Alice sighed and spoke again:
”…… At the south of Ikebukuro, there is a sporting goods store called Ex Area.”
I looked at the detective in confusion.
”It is a shop opened by a young man who is only twenty five. The man was still leading a criminal organization formed of nameless small potatoes a few years ago, but he clashed with Hinamura Souichirou who came to Tokyo not long ago, and his organization was vanquished just like that.”
What is she talking about? I kneeled down and supported my hands before the bed.
”Hirasaka Renji is in that shop. I think the owner himself is probably working together with Hirasaka.”
To stand up, my kneecaps almost turned the bed over.
”…… Renji-san!? W- Why do you know about this?”
”Why do I know? Of course, I investigated it. Who do you think the person before you is?”
The NEET detective, Alice— having control of the massive information flowing in the whole world in her fortress that is smaller than six-tsubos, she is a diminutive queen.
”Did you not tell him how to contact you? I just checked the log of incoming calls. Long before I knew Tetsu and Yondaime, Hirasaka already disappeared from Tokyo. Which means, he does not know that there is an omnipotent detective here that can search for the source of the signal though his number is private— but I am very familiar with that man.”
Alice’ voice sounded like footsteps on the cold soil by a cemetery.
”Of course, I know how cruel and avaricious he is as well. He searched for scum to hinder the event, and all of them were members of other gangs exterminated not long after Hirasaka-gumi was founded. Listen well, they are people that Yondaime and Hirasaka chased out of the city together, but now, all of them follow Hirasaka. He only drew out and expanded the hatred of Yondaime and fear of him, and that was proven by the man Yondaime caught as well. I understand people who can unhesitatingly do these things very well. They are dangerous beasts.”
I opened my mouth in agitation, but I met Alice’s cold gaze, and could only freeze on the spot.
Renji-san, he— What? What did I want to say? A person like me, how can I understand what occurred between him and Yondaime? Yondaime was right. I only met him twice, and chatted a bit. What do I know like this? I—
If I don’t know anything, I have no other choice but to reaffirm it.
I pulled my backpack behind me over and opened it, taking out a grubby white package, placing it by the bed. Alice shook her head slightly, showing a sorrowful gaze at the same time.
”Can you help me keep this for the moment?”
”…… What is this?”
”It’s Renji-san’s T-shirt. To ask me to return this to him, he called me to ask me out just now. I’ll go as soon as dawn arrives.”
”What!? Why were you asked out so honestly? Have you forgotten that the one who was dealt with violently in broad daylight was you? And it was an order by Hirasaka as well.”
”I know, but this shirt is something very important to Renji-san. He called me out just to get this back, so he won’t make any trouble!”
”God knows! And if so, why are you asking me to keep—“
Alice’s face almost reddened because of anger once more, but the heat suddenly evaporated.
”…… You mean, using it as a hostage?”
”Mnn…… Though it’s a bit different, the feeling is somewhat similar.”
I stared at Alice picking up and spreading the T-shirt open.
”If I return this to him, the relationship between Renji-san and I will be completely over.”
And I have no reason to speak with him face to face as well.
An unfulfilled promise— No matter how bad the premise is, I’m treating this as an anchor in my heart. As long as we follow the chain, no matter how many times, we will still meet.
As long as we are still alive.
So I decided to meet Renji-san with my body, words and ears once more.
”…… You are…… The same each time.”
Alice stuttered through her words, her eyes full of tears.
”How stupid are you going to be? Even a gorilla can still be intelligent to eat the ants in an anthill, knowing to use a stick, but why do you always shave off your own bones to stab into the anthill?”
”Mnn…… Sorry. Because I’m dumb…… I can’t find any other why.”
So angry that she could not speak, it was as though a lot of emotions flitted through Alice’s face in an instant. As I was planning to glance at her from below because of worry, she suddenly turned around, her black, silky hair that rose because of her action touching the tip of my nose. After that, Alice crawled to the innermost part of her bed, as though she was looking for something, and she came back once more.
And the item that was pressed on my nose was—
”…… An owl?”
A fluffy, egg-shaped plushie that I could hold with both of my hads— It was indeed an owl.
”That’s right. Her name is Minerva, a guardian goddess of soldiers. She is much more reliable than those baseless, ignorant assessments of safety of yours.”
I looked at Alice’s expression, and looked at the owl’s wise, solemn eyes.
”…… Thank you.”
”Listen well, I am just borrowing her to you! You would better prepare yourself mentally for a punishment more severe than a deduction of your salary if you do not bring her back!”
I nodded in answer, keeping the doll carefully into my backpack. That moment, something suddenly covered me from behind, blocking my vision.
It was a blanket. I was taken aback and threw it aside, turning around to look at the bed.
”Since you are finished with your words, hurry up and sleep.”
From some time before this, Alice had already returned to her keyboard, saying while glaring at me with her eyes narrowed.
”Compared with your face, the color of the mud at Tokyo Bay looks healthier. You probably did not sleep well, right? And you actually rode here while your body is in such a condition at late night, how moronic.”
”Ah…… Mnn.” The attack of words really made me feel sleepy.
”Well…… Sorry for bothering you then, let me rest for awhile……”
Though sleeping in such a cold room is somewhat uneasy for me, since I did bring a sweater when I left home, it would probably be fine if I borrow the blanket as well. It’s much better than going home to sleep. But where should I sleep? If I sleep by the fridge, perhaps it can reduce the assault of the air conditioning? As I was about to walk out of the bedroom with the blanket, Alice halted me in an embarrassed tone.
”…… If you promise not to sniff the sheets…… Actually…… You can sleep at the edge of the bed.”
That was actually a choice that made me struggle, but because of my injuries and fatigue, the scales in my heart slanted very quickly. I went on this bed quite a lot of times anyway. Thus, I lied down in a place that was an extremely short distance from Alice’s back, and being surrounded in a familiar smell, I fell into a short moment of respite.
Translator's Notes and References
- A Japanese actor who starred in many yakuza movies.
- A shrine worshipping Hachiman.
- A way of betting by using four different combinations.
- Disregarding the position, a horse betting coupon betting on the horses getting first to third place.
- Horse coupon that has odds of over a hundred times if one wins the bet.
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