Kamisama no Memochou:Volume 4 Chapter 4
I don’t often go to Ikebukuro, so I was somewhat surprised at the scene before my eyes— Even though it was near afternoon in the holidays, the people on the whole street reduced visibly after I was about one street’s distance from Meiji Road. After walking by a road with numerous ramen shops lined up together and reaching a corner with a Gusto Italian restaurant, a park appeared before my eyes. There was a fountain spouting murky water, a public restroom with outer walls spotted because of the sun, a sakura tree growing lush leaves, working hard to create a shade, and a crowd of senior citizens silently playing Chinese chess on a bench with the sun shining on it.
I picked up the backpack holding an owl plushie with my sweaty hands and carried it on my back once more.
There was a tall silhouette before the fountain, his hair dyed blonde looking as though it directly stuck the scorching rays of sunlight onto his hair. Below the sunny skies, his sunglasses completely covered his gaze. Eh? I suddenly noticed the cellphone in Renji-san’s hand. Possibly because he noticed me, his speed of talking accelerated.
“…… I’m hanging up now…… Just think of a thing like this by yourself, I didn’t say that it must be today…… Someone’s coming! Shut up, I’m going back soon.”
Renji-san hung up right after that. So this person speaks in standard Japanese on the phone…… He didn’t seem like that when he spoke to me, and sounded like two different people.
“I bought a new cellphone, as I had some income. Everyone said that it’s inconvenient when workin’ and kept telling me to buy one.”
Renji-san beamed and waved the cellphone in his hand.
“I told my number to a whole lotta people, and it kept ringin’, it’s just plain annoyin’. That’s why I don’t like to use cellphones.”
I stopped about five steps before Renji-san and lowered my head. Renji-san’s job— Is it to hinder Yondaime’s job?
There were just too many things to ask, but I still wished to change them to words and sentences.
“Well then…… Please tell me your number.”
Renji-san smiled while spinning his light blue phone with his finger hooked on his phone strap.
“Ain’t that useless? This is probably the last time we’re meetin’.”
He stopped spinning his phone and tilted his head in puzzlement.
“This isn’t the last time. Because I didn’t bring the T-shirt.”
Renji-san narrowed his eyes, and it felt as though his gaze was cutting my face like a wire saw.
“If I return it to you right now, doesn’t that mean we can’t meet each other anymore? That’s why……”
However, after thinly piercing my face, he opened the cover of his light blue cellphone.
“I’ll send it to ya by infrared.”
I stared at the liquid plasma screen after exchanging numbers. ‘Hirasaka Renji’. I suddenly thought, it was the first time that I saw something that could be used to distinguish that he was Hirasaka in a glance.
The emotions of disbelief that was hidden in my heart had long been extinguished.
“If so, what’re ya doin’ here, Narumi?”
Renji-san’s tone didn’t seem to mind, and he continued to wave his phone, but his gaze hidden behind his sunglasses had long lost its smile.
“I’m here…… to talk to you. Isn’t it the same for you, Renji-san?”
“In a scorchin’ place like this? I was plannin’ to finish this quick.”
“You said in the phone that you have something to speak to me of……”
“There are just two matters.”
Renji-san made the gesture of two to stop me from continuing.
“Firstly, thank ya. The only thing that made me happy for returning to Tokyo was only meetin’ you, Narumi.”
I tried not to avert my gaze from the pair of sunglasses strongly reflecting the summer sun.
“In the end, it turned out as I said, my relationship with Narumi got broken.”
Renji-san’s faint smile disappeared in the end as well.
“Another thing. Secondly, I’ll kill ya when I meet ya.”
Hot sweat erupted in my clenched fists.
“…… Is it because…… I’m helping Yondaime out in his job?”
“In Tokyo, is it popular for people to ascertain long established facts under the burnin’ skies?”
“You haven’t met Yondaime even once when you were here, right? After all, didn’t you part without saying a word to each other?”
“Look here. I came here to thoroughly break my old acquaintance. How can I show up before him like this?”
If so, why did you appear before me? Even though you already know that I’m a person standing on Yondaime’s side.
In truth, aren’t you still connected to each other?
“Although you shared sake with Yondaime, what on earth happened after that? Apart from sharing sake, it seemed like you exchanged something even more important with each other as well, but even so……”
“Even though chivalry is commonly joked of by other people, those black shirted muscled blockheads still remembered this, but this doesn’t really matter. Sou probably forgot about this as well.”
Aren’t the both of them still remembering this, that was what I thought. Although it can’t be seen with the naked eye, the thing that you exchanged is still the most important to you. When Yondaime or Renji-san heard of this from me, they averted their gaze and spat out ‘Stop saying these useless words’. Even so, they did not deny it.
They haven’t forgotten about it.
“Although we once shared sake, our bonds had already been cut. What, do you think I will go easy on Sou? There ain’t such a nice thing.”
“Why? ……. If there’s any reason for this, pray tell.”
“There ain’t any obligation for me to tell ya about this, Narumi.”
“Of course there is! Aren’t we sworn brothers!”
That moment, Renji-san’s smile seemed like it was melted by the summer sun, and was gradually lost in sand.
“Sou and I argued just for a woman— Do ya think ya can believe in that?”
Behind the sarcastic tone, I felt the bitter taste of metal shavings.
“……. Is that the person called Hison?”
“Oh? So ya heard of her?”
“Just her name. Yondaime just wouldn’t say anything about her.”
“Ain’t knowing about that enough already? About the name Hison, only Sou and I…… and Min-san know about her, even though the rumor that Sou had a woman was quite widespread.”
“Is she the person that Yondaime lived with when he first arrived at Tokyo?”
“Which would be the person who made the T-shirt embroidery?”
“She died before finishin’ it. She said that she came to Japan from Korea alone, not havin’ any relatives and was staying here illegally as well. And since the reason of her death ain’t really legitimate, there wasn’t a burial as well. Even I don’t know where she was buried…… Even though such a thing is quite commonly heard of.”
An illegitimate reason of death. I didn’t even know where the sweat from my body flowed out from, and what sort of temperature I was bathed in anymore. Probably, it wasn’t only because of the hot temperature.
“She was a strange woman. Even when we went back utterly bruised or completely bloody due to fightin’ outside, she didn’t seem to mind. And I was the person who wanted to bring the person Hison was workin’ for down as well! In the end, she actually allowed me to go in and out of her room just like that. Not only did she teach Sou how to sew, she thought of teaching me as well. So idiotic. Who would do such a thing?”
“…… Why does it seem like the three of you were living together?”
“In fact, it was something like that. But Sou and I spent most of our time outside, while Hison wasn’t at home at night because of work, so we didn’t meet often. And she was really hot as well, people who often stay with her would definitely fall for her. I really can’t believe that Sou actually never went for her.”
“Ah— This……” As the topic suddenly turned realistic, I could only shift my gaze towards the ground. “Well…… Um…… Nothing happened between them? Even though they were living together?”
“Because he promised me……” Renji-san smiled weakly. “As we were already sworn brothers, becomin’ brothers in a way like that just didn’t feel right! So we promised not to go for her before one of us found a woman better than her.”
“This, ah…… Um……” Should I laugh at this moment?
“As she was workin’ at a night club, it was somewhat dangerous for her. The only people who could go for her were Sou and I, and we’ll beat them up if any other men dared to approach. We definitely wouldn’t let anyone touch her— That was our promise.”
That moment, I remembered Yondaime’s words—
I couldn’t protect her…… It was the same for Renji.
“But why— Why did she die?”
“D’ya really wanna know? What can ya do even if you know? It can’t help anyhow.”
Indeed, he was right. Being in the steaming hot air, I just felt as though my innards were substituted by chilly blocks of lead.
I think that was probably what tied Alice to her bed, a sense of emptiness.
Both the words of the deceased or the words of the living said for the dead would hurt someone. The cost of doing so would not turn into something that is better, while the words that are dug out from the grave are just ordinary words.
Even so, we still have to extend our hands.
If not, we wouldn’t know where to go.
“Those times, our gang clashed with a true yakuza gang known as the Gotouda-gumi. As we chased away the head of the shop and snatched away their territory, it’s normal for somethin’ regretful to happen. Hison was killed by the yakuza.”
My teeth chattered in my mouth.
“Sou was there that time. Not only that, I heard that that guy formed an alliance with the yakuza after that, and even accepted their money.”
“If the media broadcast the fact that Hison was killed, the delinquents would have a headache as well. And since she was an illegal immigrant, nobody would notice if they kept quiet about it, so it ended up like the woman called Hison did not exist from the start. I couldn’t even see her corpse, so probably she was buried somewhere in the middle of nowhere? Sou made a great deal.”
“How can this be……”
“Besides, I heard from Gotouda-gumi— Though it was a given, the one who was supposed to be stabbed was Sou. He was assaulted at his apartment, and used Hison who was by his side as a shield.”
“You actually believe in such a thing!? Yondaime…… How could he have done such a thi—“
“Sou admitted it himself, and looked like he didn’t care in the process. The opposin’ party gave him ten million yen to shut his mouth as well.”
I bent my back, clamped my fingers between my knees, and heaved a long sigh.
Yondaime admitted to it? And accepted other people’s money?
“Actually, I planned to rush to their office and slaughter the person who killed Hison. It was too large of a blow for me. Actually, beatin’ Sou up wouldn’t do me any good, but I still couldn’t help but beat him up.”
“That person…… Isn’t the type of person that you spoke of.”
“What do ya know?”
Below the strong rays of sunlight in the summer, Renji-san’s voice suddenly turned into a chilly blade.
“You’re just a kid runnin’ around by Sou’s side, whaddya think yer talkin’ about?”
That’s right. I really don’t know anything. However……
“I’m not just staying by his side. That guy sweated and bled by my side for quite a few times. Although I’m just a regular kid without many strengths…… Yondaime was willing to be sworn brothers with me.”
It was as though a crack appeared on Renji-san’s originally frozen face.
“The both of you said that your bonds have been severed and attacked each other— Perhaps you might think that your whole face has already turned bloody and can’t even see the opposing party, but there’s still me between you.”
I felt like my throat was about to get burnt because of my own voice.
“Because of my existence, you are still connected.”
Didn’t the two become sworn brothers with me because of a lie slightly thicker than water?
Renji-san stood up and pulled his goggles sunglasses down to his throat, and what appeared after that was a pair of cold wolf’s eyes.
I forcefully gulped down the saliva that had a slight taste of blood.
So what? Even though he looks as though he was going to cry every time he mentioned Yondaime, does he think that he could conceal it with his shades?
Renji-san probably hates Yondaime quite a lot, and even I could see that. But so what if that’s true? People like us live side by side in a bustling, crowded world, so it’s natural that such a matter would be encountered. Even though they were close to each other, they couldn’t communicate, and could only extend their claws to hurt each other. Being forced to part because of unreasonable reasons, both goodwill and malicious intents were stuck and fixed by the mud called misunderstanding. However—
Such a truth is just too strange. Such a way of doing things probably has a fault somewhere around.
“— How much money did you take?”
Hearing my question, Renji-san’s brows furrowed slightly. It was the first time that I saw Renji-san looking as though he took a serious blow.
“If you really hate Yondaime, you could just beat him to death directly, but this way of doing things is just too strange. You took action just to interfere in the event from the start, so it’s obvious from first glance that you’re not the one who wants to do this. Who did you accept money from? How much did you get? Is it the organization called Yanagihara-kai?”
“Oh, aren’t ya smart? I’ve underestimated ya.”
Renji-san viciously showed his teeth.
“Even if I’m hired by the yakuza, so what? Do you think I will stop if ya give me more cash?”
“How can this be……”
Just when I was planning to speak, I stopped once more.
That’s right, things should be so. If giving him money could solve the problem, it wouldn’t turn out like this……
“Are ya an idiot? Who would accept money just for a dumb job like this?”
Renji-san answered in scorn.
“I planned to do this from the start. I want to break everything that Sou accumulated, it’s just a coincidence that my wishes coincided with my customer’s. Since I can get money by the way as well, why won’t I continue? Saying something like Sou and I are still connected? Yer thinkin too much of yerself. I didn’t return to Tokyo just to play a game of brothers.”
Renji-san slowly raised his hand holding the light blue cellphone, veins surfacing on the back of his hands, while the skin on his fingers tightened so much that it turned white. A sound like bones breaking rang, and then the cellphone was torn in half, the outer shell of the liquid plasma screen falling onto the ground. When I heard that sound, I realized that I was so scared that I almost couldn’t breathe anymore. The bent, broken cellphone fell onto the floor, exposing its innards.
“What did ya say was connected again?”
Renji-san’s voice was like the moaning of soil that was about to freeze.
“Don’t let me see ya again, I’ll kill ya.”
Even when his silhouette and footsteps disappeared from my view, I still stood blankly below the scorching sunlight. The sweat on my forehead trickled into my eyes, hurting me.
I directly returned to my home and took a bath. After all, I went out from the previous night. Lying on the bed while wearing only a pair of jeans, I thought if I should just go to sleep. After I wake up, would everything end just like that? Let’s just pretend nothing happened, and I’ll start school on the first of September again, and I’ll go to Hanamaru Ramen occasionally, going upstairs to take care of Alice, seeing Tetsu-senpai, Hiro-san and Major gambling over there even though they didn’t have any money, and Yondaime would appear—
I clambered up and dried my hair that was still wet with a towel.
It’s better if I just face reality…… Firstly, since I returned from the station directly, my bicycle was still at the ramen shop, I still had to return the owl plushie to Alice, and I still had to talk things out with Yondaime as well.
Even if I cover my ears and eyes with a towel, the world still wouldn’t change. It would only change from summer to autumn, and from autumn to winter— And the cycle continues thus.
There were already guests at the detective agency.
“Narumi! Hurry up and save me! These two probably think that I am a potted plant or something!”
“Alice, don’t move. Hiro-san, what do we do with the plastic wrap?”
“Mmm-hmm, Alice almost has next to no splits in her hair, and doesn’t dye her hair as well, just this place is slightly dry, so we’ll have to put on more conditioner and cover it with plastic wrap for one night.”
Ayaka and Hiro-san clamped together Alice who was throwing a tantrum between them, and were undergoing a hair treatment lesson. There were combs, towels, hair dryers, conditioners, professional hairstyle magazines, clothes pegs and other articles on the bed.
“Ah, do you want to try this as well, Fujishima-kun? I heard that Hiro-san once taught me about this, but I forgot.”
Ayaka gave me a radiant smile.
“If you dare to teach even Narumi, do not think that you can ever step into this office!”
I sighed and sat by the fridge outside the bedroom. The reason that I was relieved was probably not only because of the extremely cold air conditioning in the room.
“Ayaka, just follow my instructions after this, I have something to discuss with Narumi-kun.”
“Uuuu, it hasn’t ended?”
Ayaka forced the tearful Alice to sit on her lap and happily picked up a comb.
On the other hand, Hiro-san left the bed, walked through the door of the bedroom and said softly after squatting down by my side:
“The company of the designer seemed to have called just now. Do you know about this, Narumi-kun?”
It was Mika-san’s company. I wonder how Mika-san is right now. From Hiro-san’s heavy voice, I felt a hint of coldness and couldn’t help but raise my head.
“I heard that the company wants to withdraw from this job, if it’s really related with acts of violence……”
“At…… Such a critical moment?”
“Nnn, it couldn’t be helped. After all, someone was hurt so much that she was hospitalized.”
“What about Mika-san? How is she? Is it possible……”
“She dealt with all the procedures and already got out of hospital. I planned to visit her just now, but I was too late.”
I was slightly relieved. Good thing her wounds didn’t worsen or she had to continue to stay in the hospital.
“Eh? Narumi-kun, don't you know? Didn’t Yondaime contact you? Mii-chan didn’t call you directly as well?”
Probably it’s because Yondaime doesn’t want to speak to me? Anyway, he knows that I would know of it if he tells Hiro-san, and I’m just in the lowest level, only in charge of advertising on the internet. Although I sent a message to Mika-san, it was sent to the number at her company as well, so she might not have seen it if she just got out of the hospital.
No, it’s possible that she doesn’t want to read it nor reply me. As I caused her to be dragged into an incident like that, perhaps she doesn’t want to have any connections to us anymore?
That meant that the influence of Renji-san’s medding gradually intensified.
“What should we do now? Anyway, I know Mii-chan’s phone number as well, so let’s just use this chance to get her, and using my sweet talk to convince her to continue. Ah, but since she is still hurt, she probably can’t be so active on the bed.”
I hugged my knees while listening to him bluffing, but Hiro-san suddenly approached.
“…… If you don’t do a tsukkomi on it, it feels somewhat awkward.”
“Eh? A- Ahh, fine, fine…… I thought that you were serious.”
“Actually, I’m always serious when it comes to women.”
Is this the time to act cool?
However, Hiro-san is better at me in that aspect. Actually, all of the members in the NEET Detective Squad were like that. Even though they had an excellent engine, and their fuel’s full, the key was usually not inserted.
“…… Um, what are Major and Tetsu-senpai doing right now?”
“Ah, Major……” Hiro-san shifted his gaze apologetically. “He went to Ikebukuro with some fans of survival games, saying that there’s an important battle.”
I sighed. Playing survival games while holding an air gun in such stifling weather? How leisurely of him.
“Tetsu is borrowing money from underground banks right now, saying that the police was looking for him as well.”
“Eh? What…… What did he do this time?” Commiting crimes because of a lack of money?
“I don’t know, but you probably don’t need to worry so much.”
Although Hiro-san’s smile was extremely radiant when he said that, it would probably still give the person listening an impression of this.
You don’t need to worry about this.
You still don’t have the right to worry about this.
I kept rubbing my forehead on my knees and sighed for quite some times, and even started to suspect if my gut and intestines were going to flow out from my mouth.
“You went to see Hirasaka again, right?”
Hiro-san asked nonchalantly. Why did he know? That’s right, he probably heard from Alice.
That moment, I finally understood that what I did was actually a kind of betrayal to Yondaime. Yes, I went to see him again. Seeing Renji-san, and parting after saying something meaningless.
“Did you get a way of contacting him? Because he still owes me some money…… Actually, he haven’t returned me the money for losing at dice. So I was thinking of calling him to Hanamaru Ramen so that I can have a chance to get my money back.”
I really don’t know why he can still laugh like this, as it’s already impossible for such a warm promise to still exist. I should have first reported this to Yondaime to allow a large number of members in Hirasaka-gumi to conceal themselves at the place we promised to meet at, catching Renji-san in one go. Thus, everything would be solved perfectly— Because that person came alone without being guarded as well.
I felt a hot flow in the interior of my nose— a sign of coming tears.
That person did indeed go alone. Was it because of his trust in me? Or was it because it didn’t matter even if he was caught?
Why was the person stuck in this position me?
The person clamped between Yondaime and Renji-san is just a lost, flustered, incapable kid.
When I was about to hug my knees again, a roar suddenly rang.
“Narumi, hurry up and bring me back my Minerva! And your report!”
When I raised my head, I saw the NEET detective who was sitting at the edge of the bed with her feet stepping on empty space. Akaya, whose hands were full with a comb and a towel, was still happily combing the long hair that was like black honey.
“Why do you think you are staying here? Is it possible that you will forget that you are my assistant if I do not remind you of it every thirty minutes?”
“Eh…… Ah, nn…… Nnnn.”
I stood up while grabbing the hand of Hiro-san, who was smiling wryly, while Alice wore an annoyed expression, rapidly snatching away the owl that I took out from my backpack.
“And also, this is your lost belonging. Really, you kept wailing out that it was so cold, so cold, when you were sleeping, and in the end, you kicked away your sweater and the blanket when I just raise the temperature slightly. You are so spoiled that I am speechless.”
Alice tossed the sweater that was scrunched into a ball to me. That’s right, I wore it yesterday night, and left it here in the end without taking it out. That moment, Ayaka looked rather shocked.
“Fujishima-kun, you slept here yesterday? Eh? Eh? On Alice’s bed?”
“…… Eh? Mnn, uh huh. Since it was already late night, and Alice said that I could use the very edge.”
“T- That won’t do—! Why are you so insensitive every time?”
As Ayaka suddenly stood up, Alice nearly fell from her lap, while I hastily held onto her.
“What are you doing! That was dangerous!”
Alice, who fell on my lap, turned back in anger.
“It’s only dangerous for Alice! Listen, in any case, Fujishima-kun is still a boy! Although he’s so slow that he’s completely untroubled with anything, and doesn’t mind even if he eats soy eggs from last month, he’s still a boy. If you sleep together on the same bed, there’s no guarantee that nothing would happen!”
What harsh criticism. Wait a minute……. Oi! What were you saying!
“U- U- Uuu…… What do you think would happen?” Alice widened her eyes. “I have lent my bed to Narumi twice, but nothing happened.”
“But wasn’t it like he was unconscious last time?”
While smiling wryly, Hiro-san added at a side.
“Sleeping together on the same bed under normal circumstances really isn’t too good.”
“What, even Hiro…… Uwaa! Ayaka, do not do that, I am not a kitten!”
Ayaka grabbed the back of Alice’s back and dragged her to the innermost side of the bed. Hiro-san walked over after that as well, and the two explained to Alice who was between them: “Actually, sleeping together actually means……” ,while Alice’s face slowly turned redder and redder like the setting sun on the Caribbean Seas.
“Narumi! You shameless fool!”
The third time!? Can you please not give Alice strange ideas?
“From now on, you are not allowed to pass this absolute line of defense without a visa!”
Alice piled up her dolls at the edge of the bed to form a wall, while I was so speechless that I could only scratch my head.
“Erm…… It’ll be inconvenient if I have to send meals or Dr. Pepper to you.”
“Uuu…… The said visa would be the red cans in the refrigerator!”
So I’m allowed to cross the borders just by holding Dr. Pepper? Whatever, do as you wish!
“Fujishima-kun, please be more careful as well! Alice is still young!”
“Don’t treat me as a child!”
How mystifying. Although Hiro-san still saved me in the end. He told Ayaka that we probably had some official business to discuss, and kidnapped her out of the office.
“Is this really fine? Letting Fujishima-kun stay alone with Alice?”
“It’s fine, fine……” Hiro-san answered while holding in his laughter, and I could see that the back of his silhouette was shaking as well. Ayaka seemed to be truly worried, but Hiro-san really just wanted to look at the show. What an annoying fellow.
When the two of them walked out of the corridor and closed the door, the detective agency finally recovered its usual nostalgic silence, with the sounds of many cooling fans overlapping together.
I faced the annoyed Alice who was looking at a side, and started my report.
And of course, the contents would be of Renji-san. Alice’s chilly gaze only returned when I spoke of him undergoing his job of hindering because he received money from the yakuza.
“It is somewhat incomprehensible— Hirasaka Renji’s motive.”
Alice said while tapping on the keyboard on the moveable table by her side with one hand.
“Hasen’t his motive been said already? It’s to completely destroy the event Yondaime is preparing for right no……”
“In my opinion, it does not seem like it is done just to destroy the event.”
Alice just ignored the confused me, and continued to speak.
“For instance, the reserved event location at Shinjuku. After the incident at Akasaka occurred, Hirasaka Renji once visited there. And he brought along a few people who assaulted the Akasaka music hall as well.”
I could only stay speechless.
“Why…… do you know such a thing?”
“What do you mean by why? Because I investigated about it. The said live house always uploads a lot of clips of concerts. Of course, since the video that was uploaded online cannot be used due to low distinguishability, I hacked into their computer to steal the original file. It was taken quite clearly.”
To her hacking and searching ability, I could only say that it was stunning.
“However, they did not do anything that time. Regarding their popularity, the venue at Shinjuku is not worse off than the live house that got its power distribution box damaged by them. Why do you think this is so?”
I could not answer. How can I know a fact that even Alice doesn’t know of?
“Of course, I do not know the reason as well, but I can still make assumptions of a few possibilities. The venue at Shinjuku is where the last performance will take place, and the booking of tickets has not started yet. I am thinking, is this reason possible?”
“Because the booking of tickets……. Hasn’t started yet?”
“That is correct. The tickets for the Akasaka and Ueno concerts have already been sold out, so the performance will not be halted even if those places had some trouble. However, if trouble is made at places where the tickets have not been sold yet, the performance might really get cancelled.”
I crossed my arms and pondered about Alice’s words. They were indeed quite reasonable.
“However…… These can only count as circumstantial evidence. It’s possible that they’re just thinking of making trouble, only that some trouble occurred at Shinjuku, causing them to be unable to play out their plan.”
“Of course, such a possibility exists as well. But speaking of circumstantial evidence, there is a more pressing matter. If their motive is just to halt the event, why didn't the people who could unhesitatingly resort to violence assault the performers beforehand?”
I opened my palm to cover my mouth. Indeed, that’s true.
“In fact, the only ones assaulted were you and the designing executive. As a result, the advertising company would not accept the case anymore, and it will indeed cause a great blow to the event, but the designers that can take their place are like stars in the sky. If they are aiming to halt the event, should they not attack a more irreplaceable part?”
“But…… Isn’t the party supporting Renji-san the previous organizers? To those people, the band is merchandise that can be snatched back, right? So that’s why they’re not hurting them……”
“Your assumption cannot stand as well. If so, Yanagihara-kai would have long sent a threatening letter so that Hirasaka-gumi would return the job.”
I crossed my arms yet again and fell into silence. The branches of my assumptions were completely snapped.
“…… Frankly speaking…… Renji-san probably isn’t going to stop the event itself, right?”
Or perhaps he’s allowing it to proceed as usual, and on the day of the event— Starting a serious incident that would cause victims to appear?
The thing that that person wanted to destroy— It’s everything that Yondaime accumulated up till now. That thing definitely isn’t the event nor the event coordination company. Yondaime’s ‘reputation’— the thing that was built after a long time— his credibility, right?
“Those are just assumptions. Deciding things like this is very dangerous. Besides……”
Alice looked at the row of monitors lined up behind her and explained in a self-deprecating tone:
“We did not accept a formal request. I can only place my fingers on the cover of a coffin and squat at a side, silently awaiting the dawn that will never come.”
I sat at the border of the bedroom and corridor, raising my head to look at the detective’s face.
“…… You can investigate…… Right?”
The black hair fluttered. Alice looked at me with a gaze full of doubt.
“Alice, if you’re willing to, even if Yondaime did not put in a request, you can still find out everything that occurred between him and Renji-san by using Tetsu-senpai, Major and Hiro-san’s powers, right?”
“Of course. But what about it?”
“Why aren’t you doing so?”
“Are you trying to tell me that I should do that?”
“Not really…… I know that you won’t do that. I just want to hear a concrete reason from you.”
Because you’re a NEET, because of your pride as a detective……. Can you ignore this just for reasons like this?
Even though it could be seen from a glance that her heart is in pain.
Alice grabbed a few plushies from her hill of dolls and pressed it to her chest, causing a hole to open up in the wall. Chilly wind blew between us.
“…… The so-called thoughts are things that are not concrete.”
The softly spoken words fell onto my knees along with the air conditioning.
“If it is only in the frames of thoughts, even contradicting matters can co-exist. However, I know how large the distortion and pain would be when they are directly reflected in the real world. It is the same for you. When Ayaka thought of leaving the world without saying anything, how did you, who just blankly came in contact with those thoughts, turn out in the end?”
Because of the question, I was pulled back to the cold, bitter days.
Ayaka, who jumped down from the rooftop of the school without saying a word. I, who felt as though my heart was torn, and could only be miserable alone for a few days.
And what sewed my heart together once more was Min-san’s cold dessert, Tetsu-senpai’s fists, and—
“That is why words are required.”
Her words overlapped with my thoughts.
“Words can indeed reach a cruel state. They will cut reality open, causing them to turn into a set of planes, causing contradictions to be unable to exist. That is why words are the most important thing in the world.”
The most important, and cannot be seen.
“However, words are like a sharp blade as well. They will turn thoughts into reality, but will unhesitatingly obliterate parts that have not been formed, so that is why detectives must keep playing the role of a messenger, and drag the words that sank under the dark chasm to the sunlight. This is a detective’s responsibility. Other people’s thoughts that have not been formed cannot be changed to words.”
I hugged my knees with my hands, silently thinking of Alice’s words.
And the thoughts that have not been formed in Yondaime’s heart.
In the office of Hirasaka-gumi, a few stout gang members unhappily sat on the sofa or the desks.
“Aniki, thanks for your hard work!”
“Thanks for your hard work!”
I still haven’t got used to being greeted by so many people. After I looked around for a bit, I found that Yondaime, Pole and Rocky couldn’t be seen.
“Aniki, it’s great that you’re okay!” “If we were by your side……”
They approached, and held my bandaged hand as well, making me unable to respond.
“Those guys, actually daring to attack Aniki!” “Those blasted fellows……”
However, the hot-blooded Hirasaka-gumi members, who would have usually got so mad that red steam would almost be emitted from their mouth, could only suppress their anger this time.
“…… Why is Hirasaka-san doing this?”
“Aniki, is this true? Is it possible that they’re just lies?”
“Sou-san won’t tell us anything……”
“Isn’t it said that they exchanged something more important than their lives when they underwent the ritual? All of us know about this, and we kept believing that Hirasaka-san would come back one day.”
“How can this be! He…… He came back after so much!”
I could only lower my head and look at my toes.
“Is it true that Aniki already met Hirasaka-san?”
“Aniki, what’s with this? Hirasaka-san is really planning to do us in……”
“Nn, nnnnn……” I walked back a few steps and leaned against the steel door. “I didn’t speak much to him, so I'm not too clear about things……”
I could only change the topic with a cowardly excuse.
“Why! We originally thought that we would be invincible if Hirasaka-san returns.”
“Aniki, what should we do? We don’t want to go against Hirasaka-san.”
“That person and us are like sworn father and sons. He’s the same as Sou-san, and is our senior. Why……”
I don’t have any idea even if you ask me— But I could only swallow those words back into my stomach. Speaking of all this is no help at all. I think they probably know that as well, but they couldn’t avoid themselves from discussing it.
“Excuse me…… Where is Yondaime?”
“Sou-san said that he’s going to visit a company or the like.”
“Recently, he often goes out without saying anything.”
I felt that I was really useless when I realized that I felt relieved. I had to report to Yondaime about meeting Renji-san once more and some other matters. Though I had such plans in my heart, when I thought of the scene when we converse, my heart sank once more. Just because of that, I came to the office without even giving them a call— And prayed for him to be out coincidentally.
After Alice said so much, I was still afraid of ‘words’. I’m so useless.
Walking into the dark study of the office and telling them to allow me to be alone, I sat before the computer without even turning on the lights. When I checked my inbox online, I noticed that there weren’t any replies from the advertising company. What does Yondaime plan to do after this? The direction of the design has almost been finished, and the ones left are only some odd jobs. Perhaps he’s going to look for any company to do the follow up work? He won’t tell me to do everything, will he?
I stood up from the chair and lied down on the bed used for short breaks. There was a smell of dry dust.
Oh well, why don’t I just give up already?
Although I haven’t got my salary yet, it isn’t like I’m in a state where I won’t be able to cope without getting the money. As long as I am not related with this matter, I won’t need to be troubled or get beaten up anymore. Besides, Alice and Yondaime told me not to meddle anyway.
As for the reason I’m feeling downcast— Probably it’s because not only did the things that I did not help, I caused the matter to develop towards a bad direction as well. Self-righteously thinking that there’s a deep misunderstanding between Yondaime and Renji-san, and kept firmly believing that they exchanged something important that cannot be seen with the naked eye— Such stories that were like fairy tales.
The thing that once existed between them had already vanished completely due to critical damage. Only I was standing in the middle of a sandbank that was about to sink, swirling the sand below my feet.
The identities of the people assisting Renji-san had already been mostly made clear. No matter which side bleeds, it isn’t something that a dazed high schooler should meddle in.
So I should just groggily go back to my holiday.
As long as I stuff everything to the other side of the glaring sunlight, my world can be like eggshell that was soaked in vinegar, maintaining a soft, sticky, but seemingly unblemished appearance.
However, when I picked up my phone, it was like my whole hand froze, and couldn’t even press one button.
When did it start? Me being unable to even lie to myself.
In the past, it should be easy for me to change my way of separating the things by my side, renaming them, and use a thought to cover the previous one. However, I came in contact with too much passion, and knew that some things will still spread to me through the earth and air even when I cover my eyes and ears in a starless night. So— I cannot ignore this.
What should I do? Is there anything—
“— Hello, everyone! Is Fujishima-san here?”
A voice suddenly rang behind me, making me almost fall down from the bed.
Is it possible that the voice just now is……? The voices of the confused gang members rang faintly at the other side of the door.
“So sorry for disturbing you all of a sudden. I heard that Fujishima-san is over here?”
Using the faint illumination of my cellphone screen, I ran towards the door while dodging the hill of cardboard boxes. As soon as I pushed the door open, my eyes were assaulted by strong light without prior warning.
“Aniki, um…… A strange woman……” “Suddenly barged inside.”
Coffee-colored curly hair and a shout jumped at the same time. It was Mika-san. The person standing at the entrance of the office was indeed Mika-san…… And she ran in my direction. She was wearing a miniskirt with a transparent shoulder strap. However, the bandages on her arms and kneecaps looked quite painful.
“Fujishima-san, are you okay? Waa! You’re so severely hurt!”
“N- Not really, your are more severe, Mika-san.”
“I’m fine. I’m in tip top shape, and I can walk as well! Since the cane was too troublesome, I left it at home.”
Errr…… That can’t count as being fine, can it?
“Speaking of which, our boss arbitrarily decided to stop our collaboration, so sorry for that!”
As Mika-san apologized while lowering her head in the speed of a hammer, the Hirasaka-gumi members around me and I were overwhelmed by her imposing manner and stepped back three steps.
“It seemed to be a decision that was made when I was still in the hospital. I was extremely furious! Earlier today, I rushed to the company from the hospital and talked things out with the boss. Fujishima-san, you’re probably troubled as well, right? This is something that we came up with together! I really had my life on this case!”
I repeatedly blinked and stared at Mika-san’s face.
“Are you…… willing to continue the case……?”
“But of course! It’s more like I was slightly sad as you didn’t contact me immediately…… Eh? Fujishima-kun, what’s wrong? Eh, uh, eh? U- Um…… Is it because I’m not reliable enough? You don’t need to look like you’re going to cry, do you?”
“N- No…… Not really.”
I hurriedly wiped my face with my palms in force and pretended that nothing happened while fanning my face with my hands— Although the thing that rushed to the depths of my throat almost couldn’t be suppressed already.
“…… Is it really fine?”
“About the company, I’ll try to convince them, and I heard from the boss that Sou-san apologized at the company himself as well. How can I leave this case at the side like this!”
The Hirasaka-gumi members sank into a slight commotion, while I widened my eyes as well. Yondaime apologized to the company himself? No, that person does indeed know the ways of the world very well, and doing such a thing is a given, however……
Until just now, I was still lying in the dark room, and was even considering to leave all my work aside and escape.
“Fujishima-san? Uh……. Sorry for coming here without prior notice, as I just know the email address you use for contact…… And since the company gave me a week’s break because of me getting hospitalized, I was too free, so……”
“Nono, I don’t mean that.”
I pushed Mika-san out of the office while the sun setting in the west shone on us diagonally at a side. It felt as though we just woke up, and the innocence that originally stuck onto our skin was gradually vaporized by the scorching sunlight.
“I…… should apologize instead.”
“But you didn’t do anything wrong, did you?”
“It’s just because I didn’t do anything, but I caused Mika-san to get involved all of a sudden……”
“Ah, no, there’s no such thing!”
Mika-san forcefully thumped my shoulders. As my injuries hadn’t healed yet, I nearly made an odd cry, and could only suppress myself.
“I heard that Hirasaka-gumi seemed to be in trouble…… But it’s hard on our company as well. Since our company is so small, it isn’t often for us to get such a large case…… In the end, the president and the boss actually said that they don’t want to have any trouble with the yakuza! Even though I already told them that Sou-san isn’t a yakuza! How could it be possible for such a young, good-looking yakuza to exist? Fujishima-san, why don’t you scold me as well? Something like ‘What the heck is your company doing!’ or the like. Don’t be so mindful!”
Mika-san’s smooth shoulders that reflected the sunlight and her arms wrapped in bandages were quite sharp, so I could only shift my gaze.
“Then that’s that. I’ll count on you once more when your injuries get better. I’ll have to trouble you to update the blog as well! And I’m going to Alan Garba right now as well!”
“The idea that you proposed, the T-shirt used for promotional purposes! It won’t do if we don’t hurry!”
Oh yeah— Using a friend’s famous second-hand clothing shop Alan Garba to print the event on the shirt, and selling them to the young people on the streets. Even though it was my idea, I forgot about it completely as I was busy dealing with other matters.
“Then…… Allow me to go as well. It should be easier for you to discuss with me present, right?”
After all, the owner of the second hand shop would feel bad refusing my request because of certain reasons.
“But Fujishima-san’s injuries are still so serious……” “Aren’t your injuries more severe than mine?” “What a quick tsukkomi!”
“Ah— Sorry, in any case, let’s hurry!”
I breathed in deeply, and relocated my pace.
Do things that I can do now.
“Because this is my job.”
Mika-san nodded while smiling.
It was already evening when we finished our discussion and walked out of the shop. Alan Garba was packed with young women. Since it was only a street away from the busy district, and there was a Yoshimoto Kogyo performance hall by it as well, customers kept gushing inside right until closing time. It seemed like Mika-san wanted to pick out some clothes as well, as she kept looking back, but she still reminded herself to prioritize her work in the end, and picked up her phone after that.
“Hmm…… The calls to Sou-san just wouldn’t get through.”
She placed her phone by her ear for quite some time and showed me a troubled expression after that.
“There shouldn’t be much trouble with the T-shirts, so I wanted to report this to him.”
“Allow me—“ To tell him…… I wanted to say that, but I stopped after that. Is Yondaime still willing to speak to me? It just seemed like I damaged the trust that he had for me after some time because of my insensitivity. After all, the past that he wasn’t willing to mention was dug out by me…… Including Renji-san and the woman called Hison.
“That won’t do. The one who accepted the case was me, I’ll report it to him. Spinach is a basic condition for working in the society. ”
“Meaning, report, contact and communication?”
“Yes, yes. In any case, taking the initiative to speak is very important. I’ll send him a message first.”
Actually, it’s probably the most important thing while doing anything in this world.
Actually having so many people say the same thing to me, is it possible that I’m a person bad at communicating in other people’s eyes?
“That’s why, remember to contact me after you finish the discussion of the design tomorrow!”
“I understand…… Report, contact and communication, I’ll remember it.”
Although we had to ask Yoshiki-san to sew the design onto the T-shirt immediately, Mika-san said that she had a meeting that she must go to the next day, so I had no other choice but to head to Kita-Senju alone.
“I heard that the shop owner is really good looking. Is that true?”
“Eh? Ah, yes….. Well…… He’s quite good looking.”
“Having a name like ‘Yoshiki’, it sounds like he’s the Yoshiki in the visual kei band ‘X’! So does that mean he has a sickly beauty like that of visual kei bands?”
“No, it’s completely different. Their names are written differently as well.”
If I’m not mistaken, the Yoshiki in X should be written as 佳树, while善喜was written on Yoshiki-san’s card that I handed to Mika-san.
“Whoa! This name seems to be quite candid!”
As you said, he’s indeed a candid, good-looking man.
“I want to go as well! What a pity! But if I don’t defeat president in the meeting tomorrow, this case would be closed. They’re probably letting me continue my break, deciding on things by themselves.”
I couldn’t help but think: If anything wrong occurs, the efforts that we put in till now might be lost— Why can this woman still be so energetic? However, I hoped that she would help out more. As for me— I should at least send a message to Yondaime.
I sat on the sailings of the road and took out my phone, and Mika-san said at a side while I was pondering of what I should write:
“Are you sending a message to Sou-san? Well then…… Why don’t you add more emoticons? And add a heart at the end!”
“Wait a minute, please don’t do that!”
Such an embarrassing message was nearly sent. So close……
“At these times, you should be more open about these, then you can speak whatever you want to when you meet.”
“I’d have been killed before I speak whatever I want!”
“But emoticons can express the emotions that cannot be said in words……”
Nonono, even if you speak in words like those from a love poem, I won’t be fooled. However, if there are really such emoticons, I would really like some.
What should I say to Yondaime? How can I start the topic? After going round in a circle, my thoughts still returned to that point.
After the next afternoon, I went on the Chiyoda Line from Omotesando Station. From what I remember, Chiyoda seems to be near the Saitama Prefacture, but it wasn’t as far as I thought, as I reached it after about thirty minutes of taking the subway.
“Narumi-kun, I’ve been waiting for you!”
When I reached Wakagi Crafts Store, Yoshiki-san was chatting with two girls who seemed to be college students. He immediately stopped chatting when he saw me and waved at me. His slim figure wearing a pair of tight fitting jeans looked even slenderer while being covered by an apron with the name of the shop printed on it. How crazy would Mika-san go if she sees him, I wonder. After that, I walked around the counter and sat on the chair that he handed to me. Who is that person? What’s his relationship with the shop owner? All the females in the shop shot me such glances non-stop, making me feel extremely uncomfortable.
“Very sorry— Let’s chat again later!” Yoshiki-san consoled the girls slightly and turned around after that. Basically, Yoshiki-san kept staying in the counter, and it felt like he was a rental books owner from olden times.
“About the design of the logo, I made about eight of them.”
A whole stack of Cham papers with large, trendy band logos drawn on them were handed to me. Except for the same black thrush on the letter ‘i’, there was a variety of pictures, with pictures that had a sense of trendiness and even those that had a somewhat mechanical look.
“How is it?”
I couldn’t help but moan.
“…… It doesn’t seem right?”
“Nono…… To be honest, each one is great.”
If time allows for it, I would even think of putting all of them on the website to allow everyone to vote. Regretfully, the promotional T-shirts had to be made as soon as possible, or the effect would drastically decrease, so there’s not too much time.
“If you really want me to pick one……” “Nnn, if you want to choose one out……”
Yoshiki-san and I pointed at the same picture at the same time, a slightly Japanese styled picture. We laughed out loud after glancing at each other.
After that, I used the laptop computer that I brought to edit the logo and the promotional text, pasting them on the sample T-shirt. There were five colors in total, and each of the lines were simple and clean. Since there isn’t much time anymore, let’s just decide it like this?
“So we’re going with this? But this picture will be more sharp if you use embroidery instead of printing it on.”
“Nonono, our budget wouldn’t be enough for that.”
Yoshiki-san laughed while saying ‘That’s true”. Even if they’re printed on, it should look quite cool as well.
“The girl called Mika called me, saying that I can decide it by myself. Is that really fine? I heard that even the band members said that they’re letting me handle things.”
“It’s just because the band members let us handle everything that makes me feel uneasy.”
I heard that it’s because the previous organizer was too terrible. Possibly because of that, we got their complete trust just because we handle things normally. That made me slightly troubled as well, though it isn’t anything bad.
“Have you met the band members? I saw them on the net, and every one of them was quite cute.”
“No, I haven’t met them in reality, but Yondaime probably meets them quite often.”
“Nnnnn, is it really fine if we handle things?”
Do we need to listen to Yondaime’s opinion? I thought while taking out my phone, but did not have the courage to press the button, and could only sigh after reaffirming that I didn’t receive any message. After seeing my expression, Yoshiki-san seemed to have something to say, but since there was a female customer calling him at the other side of the counter, he just slid over with his chair after apologizing to me.
“Yoshiki-san, was this on a rack? Can I take it directly?”
“Nnn, sorry for the trouble.”
Eh? Looking at Yoshiki-san’s silhouette, I suddenly thought— Why does he allow customers to climb on a ladder to take the merchandise at high places? When I think about it, this person almost always sits on a chair……
“…… Do you have trouble with your feet?”
I only thought after I asked Yoshiki-san in a low voice, isn’t this way of asking somewhat rude?
“Ah— Nnn…….” He looked slightly embarrassed, but he still answered. “It’s not like I have trouble with my feet. It’s just that I had some of my innards removed in a surgery, so the doctor told me not to stand while working if possible.”
“…… Eh?” Then he was probably hurt badly that time?
“I originally worked at a night club, and I couldn’t continue it in the end. At first, I thought that it’ll be fine if I just sit down while making crafts work, but it isn’t like that at all.”
“It isn’t like that from the start!”
It just seems like this person is a bit out of touch with society. Talking with him is slightly tiring. He probably used up quite a lot of money when he started his shop, how can it be decided by such a simple reason? I’m not too sure of this person’s background, but since he’s senior to Yondaime, is it possible that he was a NEET in the past? Although he doesn’t seem like one, it’s really hard for one to ask the other person if he is such a person in person. That’s right, I remember that he knows Min-san as well, right? Let’s just ask her directly next time.
“Hina helped me out in the busiest times when the shop just opened, and now the customers are helping me out, so it still counts as passable.”
“Eh? What? You’re talking about Yondaime? Isn’t that guy really mindful of money? Wouldn’t he ask for a high salary?”
“But I asked him to help me for free?”
I breathed in deeply to express my helplessness. Although he’s a senior who knows him from long ago, I really can’t think of another person who can treat Yodnaime like this, and I’m slightly envious…… Nonono, and I actually imagined myself calling Yondaime ‘Hina’, it’s just too impossible.
“Actually, I feel stranger seeing everyone scared of Hina to death.” Yoshiki-san gave me a smile.
“My impression of him is that he probably started to threaten and scare people from the time he was born……”
“Haha, there’s no such thing. When Hina wasn’t too familiar with Tokyo, he was scared like a small rabbit as well. And he even complained to me that the messy subway structure makes people feel lost, there aren’t covers on the lights in the trains and the like. So cute.”
Does this count as cute?
“He probably did a lot of things that forced himself, huh? That guy is a bit too tough, and he’s slightly too good at taking care of other people, so naturally many people followed him. However, these people probably aren’t thinking of relying on him, but want to beat him up instead.”
“……. Then what about Yoshiki-san?”
“Of course, I’m the type that wants to rely on him, you know when you take a look at my body!” Hearty laughter, “Actually Hina only has one true friend that can support him when he’s in trouble, but they got in a large fight. I wonder what that person is doing right now.”
So he knows Renji-san as well? But it doesn’t seem like he knows that he’s already back. Probably Yondaime didn’t tell him about it? If it were to be me, I probably won’t say anything about it as well, because I wouldn’t be willing to see such a bright smile being clouded over.
There is only one true friend.
“…… He probably has a girlfriend as well, right?”
Yoshiki-san once mentioned that she was a frequent customer as well, so he should know her as well.
“I heard that she’s called Hison…… Couldn’t she have become Yondaime’s pillar of support?”
Although Yoshiki-san’s expression did not have too much of a change, it was as though I could hear the sound of an old book turning into powder after being touched with a finger.
“…… Ahh, hmm, about Hison……” Yoshiki-san’s voice sounded slightly rigid. “She couldn’t help it. Although she could help out a bit with their daily lives, she wasn’t a reliable person, and it felt like she was somewhat unconcerned as well, and couldn’t even handle her own matters. Besides…… She isn’t here anymore.”
I bit my lip. Perhaps that wasn’t a question that I should ask. It seemed like I made him recall something sorrowful.
If so, was Yondaime always alone? Faces of Tetsu-senpai, Hiro-san, Major, Min-san, Alice and others surfaced in my mind, but it doesn’t feel quite the same. Although they won’t rely on Yondaime, they won’t become his supporting pillar as well.
Because he’s just too tough. Yondaime is just too tough, and can handle anything by himself.
“That’s why Narumi-kun, you must do your best!”
“Erm…… What must I do my best for?”
“Do your best to be Hina’s sworn brother.”
“Isn’t that a thing that can’t be done by just doing one’s best? I don’t know what to do at all.”
Right now, I can’t even find a topic to talk to him about, and I almost can’t believe in it now……. Believing in the thing that should exist between Yondaime and Renji-san up till now.
“Perhaps you can try practicing manzai with him?”
“Um, that shouldn’t be so, right?”
As I was about to be pulled back to reality by my real troubles, Yoshiki-san forced the topic to another direction. How tiring.
“So Narumi-kun will of course be the side doing tsukkomis, right?”
What do you mean of course! Although I’m a bit self-conscious that it’s like this……
“Hina spoke in Kansai slang in the past as well, so he can probably act as the boke? And your group’s name would be ‘NaruHina Brothers’.”
“Why are you giving us such a cute name!? Please don’t joke anymore, I’m full just hearing the name—“
Just at that moment, my words were completely absorbed by the air and stopped.
Yoshiki-san shook his head before me. It seemed like he asked me something, but his voice couldn’t reach my ears at all.
The answer that was suddenly grasped.
Although it cannot be seen with the eyes, it’s something that is more important than anything else.
I stood up, tripping the round stool along the way. Yoshiki-san and the customers in the shop got a shock and looked back at me, but I didn’t have the time to care about them.
“E- Excuse me…… I’m very sorry, but I have to make a call!”
I rushed to the dark stairway behind the counter and hurriedly pressed the buttons after picking up my phone. The repetitive dial tone kept ringing in my ears. The call hasn’t gotten through? Is it because I’m calling, so you’re deliberately pretending not to see, and not to pick up? Please, hurry up and pick up the phone!
If I don’t speak it out, nothing can be expressed. I must express this in words, or we will only be lone shadows in a dark fog far away for eternity. So— Please pick up the phone. As long as this answer can be expressed, no matter what blades you use to carve your own emotions, I will accept it openly. So right now—
The dialing tone stopped in a flash.
Yondaime’s voice came from the receiver. Up to a hundred words clambered up my throat in one go, causing me to be unable to speak.
I could only tightly hold my phone while squatting on the floor that was full of dust, pressing my chest while breathing in deeply repeatedly at the same time.
’Hello? Hurry up and speak if you have anything to say! I have to go apologize to the sponsors after this.’
I frantically suppressed my charred emotions that was about to spill out.
“…… I went to see Renji-san today again.”
’I already saw your message just now. So what? It’s not like we found their hideout. Just now, I called my men to the sports shop at Ikebukuro just now, but they’re not there anymore. Then there’s no reason I should listen to yo—’
“Can you please listen to me first!”
The vibrations of my loud roar spread to my abdomen, giving me no choice but to support myself on the floor with my palm.
“Renji-san— He’s still speaking in Kansai slang up till now.”
No response could be heard for quite some time, but I know— I know very clearly, that’s the answer. Alice once said, words are like a sword, and I truly felt the blade of the sword sinking in my blood. The thing that Yondaime and Renji-san exchanged when they shared sake, the important thing that can’t be seen— Those are words. The two gave the words that they use from the time they were given birth to the other—
And they’re keeping it up till now.
It’s true for Renji-san, and the same for Yondaime as well.
The voice of the wild wolf that answered after some effort sounded somewhat shaken.
’It’s just a lame game.’
As I recall, Renji-san spoke in standard Japanese when giving orders on his phone, but he spoke in a strange Kansai slang when he talked to me, as though he was showing off photos in a photo album. Perhaps it’s something that can only be shown to friends…… A true thing?
“That person……” I chose my words carefully, and squeezed out my voice from my scorching throat. “…… told me this. No matter how many years he continues to live, he cannot make a friend more important than that guy— But he has no other choice but to do in that person that gave him such a feeling. He’s just hired by someone, and doesn’t really want to do this, that person actually doesn’t want to fight with y—“
The words that were squeezed after some effort stemmed the flow of words gushing out from the depths of my throat.
’So what about it! Then what do you think we should do? In truth, he is now my enemy, and I can only actively try to break him—’
“Please give Alice a request!”
I stood up and shouted out my thoughts.
“This is definitely wrong! Even though you’re friends and you’ve reunited after so long, up till now…… The two of you haven’t forgotten about the most important thing! Healthily…… Living on…… As long as you’re still alive.” It was as though my overheated voice was about to sink into the damp flames climbing up my windpipe. “As long as you’re still alive, you can communicate with each other, but why— why are the two sides bruising each other from head till toe?”
’What do you kno—’
“I don’t know anything, but it’s the same for Yondaime and Renji-san! Definitely having lies somewhere around, having unfortunate coincidence, so our…… our relationship wouldn’t have dissolved so easily…… If so!”
Beads of particles scattered in the darkness along with each word and sentence that I spat out, and I realized that I already couldn’t hold back my tears anymore. Even so, I still struggled to speak out the thawing words:
“Please give Alice a request!”
Steaming breath fell onto the filthy floor.
Detectives— exist just for these times.
I closed my eyes, holding my phone that was almost melted by sweat while pressing my aching side abdomen. I awaited the answer.
The words— Were they successfully transmitted? To where?
Are there only clips of emotions that have long died due to being cut, left at the place that they are transmitted to? Because I arrived too late? Even though I was always between them…… Even though I could have told them even more even earlier……
’You just need to finish your own work.’
Yondaime’s sharp but weak voice sounded like flattened aluminum foil. ’You’re just too nosy. Don’t be so alike your employer only in these places.’
After hanging up, I still squatted at the stairway, staring at the cellphone in my palm. The fragments of myself that couldn’t be transmitted still seemed to tangle up my fingers, making me feel bouts of pain. Sweat dripped onto the dust time after time, but I still felt cold.
Sounds of metallic friction suddenly flashed past my neck. The door was opened. I slowly raised my face and saw Yoshiki-san before me.
“Are you okay?”
My voice had already turned hoarse, so I could only nod in response.
“Renji….. He’s back?”
I couldn’t answer the following question.
“Sorry. I didn’t have any intention of eavesdropping, I just heard it on coincidence.”
As I was about to stand up, I suddenly forgot how to apply force with my feet, and could only hug my knees and pull them close to my chest. I even felt as though I might even have difficulties in breathing if I don’t contract my body.
Even so, I still forced myself to stand up and look back when Yoshiki-san walked away from the door and towards me step after step by leaning against the wall.
“You can’t even walk?”
“It’s not like I’m completely unable to, walking slowly is not a problem. The main point is about Renji.”
I really couldn’t meet Yoshiki-san’s gaze as he reached my side.
“Hina seems to be somewhat grumpy recently, so it’s because of this? So it’s not just because he’s busy with his event organization?”
So Yondaime never mentioned anything to this person. Because he didn’t want him to worry.
So I squeezed out a smile with all of my might and shook my head in denial. But how should I justify myself? I was already lacking energy, and couldn’t even think of a harmless lie anymore.
“…… Renji-san, has returned.”
I could only speak of the truth.
“They didn’t make peace with each other because of the matter before this. After all, both of them are stubborn people.”
“It seems like there’s nothing to do anymore. If so, at least—“
At least— What? What should I do? Follow what Yondaime said and do my own job?
It seems like there’s only this step to take now.
I supported Yoshiki-san back into the shop. The cold wind dried my sweat. Yoshiki-san still seemed like he had something to say when he sat back onto his chair, but I immediately asked:
“About when will the design of the T-shirt picture be done? Is it possible to be done by today? Please send it to me in psd format, and then…… We’ll have to send it to Alan Garba. I’ll use it directly on the shop website and pop out ads. As for the fees—“
I tried to pretend that I didn’t see his sincere gaze, and continued the topic of work.
If not, I would definitely forget how to speak, directly burying myself into the gentle atmosphere of silk and wool.
After the discussion ended, it was already four in the afternoon when I returned to Hanamaru Ramen by taking the subway from Kita-Senju. Along the way when walking back from the station, I reported the results to Mika-san through phone, and in the end, my remaining vigor was drained by the woman that was as energetic as a high school girl.
When I finally saw the portiere of Hanamaru Ramen that looked like a mirage at the end of the alley through the heat given off by the asphalt road, I suddenly felt like crying.
It seemed like I turned fragile. After frequenting the shop, I turned more fragile than before. Just like a block of dried up brick that fell into the water, absorbing a lot of water.
But I don’t regret it, because it’s the same fact that there aren’t any hearts in this world that can’t be broken.
However, I really wish that I could be stronger, at least to the extent that I don’t need to keep walking with my head lowered. While thinking of such matters, I was attracted by faint sounds of conversation, and continued to walk forward while stepping on the asphalt road that seemed to be sticking onto my feet as it melted. After that, I heard the sounds of conversation even clearly.
“I want cards of both wool and malt! Who can give that to me?”
“I can provide it if it’s just malt.”
“If steel ore can count as a thousand yen, I’ll provide both.”
“It’s too expensive!”
“Then let’s use five hundred yen in cash, and I’ll provide malt only.”
“What are you doing……?”
As usual, I looked in the back alley behind the kitchen backdoor. Tetsu-senpai, Hiro-san and Major were passionately playing a game around a wooden stand, and didn’t even give me a glance. There was a board full of hexagonal blocks, colorful cards and wooden pieces on the stand. This should have been a board game that I’m quite familiar with……
“Isn’t it clear in a glance? It’s The Settlers of Catan.”
Major answered me in a somewhat scornful tone and confirmed the wad of cash by his hand. The Settlers of Catan is the most famous board game in Germany, and was brought into Japan as well— But……
“As I recall, this game doesn’t use cash, right?”
“This is a way of playing that we thought of, and it’s called Cash Catan. What differs from the normal way of playing is that cards can be traded in cash. “…… Won’t Germans be angry if they see this?”
“There will be an extreme struggle in our hearts when comparing the cash obtained after winning and the cash paid when doing deals in the game, so this is a game that requires intelligence.”
“There won’t be any driving force to play if money isn’t involved.”
“Tetsu, you wasted Major’s explanation!” Hiro-san smiled while standing up, giving me the seat of the gas tank. “Well then, Narumi-kun, why don’t you join and let us start again?”
“That’s too devious, Hiro-san! Just getting cash with deals, but not even building one street!”
“Then why don’t we let Narumi join directly? Hurry up and place two cities and streets somewhere you like. And there’s an entrance fee of two thousand yen.”
“That’s a fine idea. Indeed, The Settlers of Catan is more enjoyable with four people.”
“Fine my foot! Doesn’t that mean that only I have a setback, and am in a bad position?”
“Then we’ll give you an advantage. Only Narumi can throw five dice at once.”
“That isn’t an advantage at all!”
Hiro-san laughed out loud. The rules of the game state that we can gain crops from the boxes that we stop at, so it isn’t much of an advantage.
“It is fine even if you join halfway through, Narumi. Just play. I shall support you and provide you with the funds.”
“—Why is even Alice over here?”
But there’s some problem with me as I didn’t notice her here at all. The kitchen backdoor was about half open, and a black-haired silhouette donning light blue pajamas stood in the middle of it. Alice pressed an ice pack on her forehead and her thighs, and looked as though she returned from going somewhere to put a curse on someone. Why must she force herself to stay in the stiflingly hot ramen shop?
“Master said that she is making ice cream puffs, which is why I am waiting here. Eating ice cream puffs is all about experiencing the taste of crispy cream puff that is just done and the feeling of the ice cream slowly melting inside! Unfortunately, it is eternally impossible for me to experience the said taste if I stay in the office, so that is why I am tolerating the scorching heat over here. Despite the fact that I requested to join their ranks of playing the game, these people actually excluded me from them.”
“Because Alice’s financial status is a far cry from ours!” Hiro-san consoled her. “If you buy away all the resources each time in the end, we definitely can’t win.”
“So that is why we are having a compromise, asking the stupid Narumi to be my representative, and having the handicap of joining in midway as well. Let’s go, let’s go!”
To be frank, I wasn’t in the mood to play games at all, but I was still forced to sit down and pick up the dice in the end. Alice gave me a huge scolding behind me, saying that I’m untalented, have no observation powers, and no negotiation ability; and was forced to see Ayaka rolling her eyes, having my crops cards taken by Hiro-san because of his negotiation, being beaten up by Major with special cards, and even being forced by Hiro-san to lend money to him with the stupid reason of ’Forget about the game, just lend me some money’ that was completely unrelated to the game—
In the end, Min-san served us a whole hill of soft cream puffs on a tray along with a punch on each person’s head, warning us not to gamble too much as well. After the hands of unequal sizes were extended to the tray, the hill of cream puffs disappeared without a trace in a flash. Being surrounded by vanilla ice cream that gave a refreshing sense of coldness, hot wind with the fragrance of chicken soup from the kitchen, and chatter of the strangely bright NEETs, I experienced a pain differing from the usual sweetness of wounds, and nearly forgot about the strong emotions burning in my heart, and the feelings when I shouted at Yondaime through the phone.
However, silence suddenly descended. Between I, who stared at the cards and wooden pieces on the stand, and my companions, who stared at me, a time that seemed to have difference in temperature passed, and there was a rustling similar to someone crying.
The sounds of the water used by Ayaka to clean the pots in the kitchen and Min-san cutting onions or celery came from the kitchen.
Just at that moment, thoughts formed in a slow speed that almost made people lose their senses.
“…… I failed.”
The first, and the most useless statement.
Unknowingly, Alice placed a chair away from the kitchen backdoor at a position near to me and sat down while hugging her knees. Her direct gaze assisted me in squeezing out the words.
“I’ve said everything I can…… Both to Renji-san and to Yondaime, but it’s useless. I think Yondaime probably wants to finish everything by himself. I really can’t see how they’re enemies, and even think that they’re still friends, so…… If it’s Alice…… If only he would give Alice a request. I kept thinking about this, and said a lot of useless stuff in the end. Is it possible— All of this are just my delusions?”
Nobody present could give me an answer, while my words were gradually buried by the humid air.
“Having once played a game of yakuzas, and having owed each other favors, and having asked me to work for him, I even thought…… I understood Yondaime a bit more. In the end, I just did a lot of meaningless stuff, and dragged him down…… I don’t actually know anything at all.”
The detective covered me with her gentle voice.
“You don’t know the person called Hinamura Souichirou at all.”
As I was about to crush signs of tears with my eyelids, Alice’s hands came in contact with my arm.
“That person is not such a low person. He will definitely return things that he keeps for the others, look.”
Alice’s chilly fingers sank into my skin. I suddenly heard faint sounds of footsteps coming from afar and raised my head.
The setting sun inserted in the alley brought a long shadow to my toes.
Tetsu-senpai turned around and shrugged, Major smiled wryly and pushed his goggles up, while Hiro-san stood up, carrying Alice along with her chair, making space for one person.
While I— I just stared blankly at the gray hair, sharp gaze of a wild wolf, and the shoulder with the picture of a swallowtail butterfly sewn on it.
“…… Why are all of you glaring at me?”
Yondaime said while stepping on the soil of the back alley. He just glanced at me, shifting his gaze to the NEET detective by my side immediately after.
“Why are even you over here?”
“I am a NEET detective who has nothing worth complimenting, so I do not need a reason to participate in parties.”
Yondaime snorted at Alice’s answer.
“I'm here to give you a request.”
“What a joyous event. I am happy to interrupt the party to listen to your emotionless explanation.”
I couldn’t even suppress the trembling of my knees. Yondaime gave the detective a request:
“An old friend returned. Because of timing, we can’t even talk to each other properly. But I still owe him something, and he has something to return to me as well.”
When I heard Yondaime’s words, I unconsciously held Alice’s hand. I needed something to hold on.
“As for the way, I’ll leave that for you to handle…… Just think of a way to bring him to see me.”
My throat was full of the impulse to speak.
Even so, the detective still added the last words.
“I am a NEET detective, the messenger of the deceased. My hands might destroy the tranquility based on ‘ignorance’. “
My hands temporarily recovered its grip.
“—Are you fine with that even so?”
Yondaime shifted his gaze in embarrassment.
“I’d be lying if I’m fine with that. Don’t investigate meaningless matters. I’m telling you to think of a way to stop him and to bring him before me without killing him.”
“Although I have received up to a hundred types of requests, only you dare to deny my question in face.”
“So what? Who cares about your sickly curiosity?”
“So that means you are asking me to preserve the cruel misunderstanding without touching it?”
“That isn’t your job. I’ll decide what to do myself.”
My tightly gripped hand was trembling non-stop.
“If so, Renji-san would still hate Yondaime—“
“You shut up!” “Narumi, please shut your mouth!”
The words that the both of them spoke at the same time pierced into my chest, and I could only stop.
“However…… Yondaime, we shall dig open graves, digging out the words of the dead. If the person in the coffin is still alive, I am afraid that our pickaxes cannot harm them. And we will be stained with their blood as well. It is an unavoidable fact.”
We gazed silently with bated breath, while Alice just looked directly at Yondaime.
“Do you understand what I mean?”
Yondaime glared furiously at Alice while gritting his teeth.
Would he cancel the request because of that? My heart was filled with uneasiness. Even though……. Even though we came in contact after so much effort.
However, the trace of anger in Yondaime’s eyes suddenly disappeared on the next second.
“…… Whatever. Anyway, if you dare to investigate things that have passed, I’ll beat people up.”
“In my whole detective career, it is the first time I met such an uncooperative client.”
In contrast with her words, Alice showed a relieved smile.
“Very well, I accept.”
Alice jumped down from the chair, and her black, silky hair fluttered because of that. As for me, I puffed out the air that I held in for a long time. We can finally take action. For Yondaime…… I couldn’t sit still just thinking of that, so I stood up.
However, I was not the only one to await the sign of confirmation. Major stood up first and opened the backpack by his side, taking out a stack of papers with photos attached to them and forcefully threw them at the game board.
“I predicted that such a thing might happen, so I already installed spying cameras and bugs at Renji’s hideout. But he doesn’t stay at the same place, so I couldn’t grasp his movements completely. I’ve already finished doing Ikebukuro.”
Yondaime seemed to be slightly surprised, while I think I probably had a similar expression on me as well.
“…… Ikebukuro? So you weren’t there for a survival game?”
“Hmm? Of course, I installed them along the way in the battle, and I used the support of my men as well. Installing a large amount of spying devices while wearing normal clothing would definitely be suspected, but it won’t be so if one wears camouflage clothing and is geared for battle.”
“Won’t people be more suspicious because of that?”
As I was about to do such a tsukkomi, Tetsu-senpai opened up a grubby notebook on the wooden stand.
“This is the incident in Akasaka, and this is the incident in Ueno. According to the investigations of the police, the fire was probably just a concurrent event, as the people actually damaged the power distribution box only. The police is quite troubled as well, as the people who can’t get together at normal times actually cooperated under Renji’s command, and they don’t know their true motives as well.”
Yondaime and I looked at Tetsu-senpai with bated breath at the same time.
“However, the one supporting Renji has already been confirmed. That idiot, he owed the loan sharks operated by the yakuza at Chiba quite a few million, and he was transferred to Yanagihara-kai. It’s unmistakable that the organization supporting him is Yanagihara-kai.
So he looked for loan sharks and the police because of this? And he actually put up an act before this like he didn’t want to get involved when we didn’t get a request.
“And also, I’ve already known which shops Renji often goes to.”
Even Hiro-san said such things and showed the names of shops recorded in his phone to Alice. I could only stare at the things occurring before me.
“I heard that Renji’s underlings are the delinquents near Ikebukuro, right? A girl that I know searched for a bit and found it. She knows about the sports goods store, and found out from quite a few people about sightings of Renji. If so, we can probably find out who’s assisting Renji, right?”
I looked at the faces of the three, but since Major and Tetsu-senpai gave me somewhat triumphant gazes, I couldn’t continue to look.
How could I have forgotten? How could I have thought that they were just waiting at the back alley without doing anything? Even though I came in contact with this for so many, so many times— When in need, the flourishing vigor that called one to stand up.
Why…… couldn’t I have believed in them?
“…… You guys……”
Yondaime looked somewhat bitter. Perhaps because he didn’t want people to see his expression, he extended his head into the kitchen.
“Oi, Master, can I order something?”
“I’m doing the preparations right now, you can see at a glance! You’ll have to wait for some time for the water to boil as well.”
“Doesn’t matter, it’s fine as long as there’s sake. Anyway, the ramen here is— It hurts! Why are you hitting customers?”
“Guys who don’t order don't count as customers!”
“In any case, just hurry up and get us some sake. My treat.”
Five cheap glasses with brewed sake were served, and a can of Dr. Pepper as well.
This is a place that exists for us. In the past, it was probably a gentle place that existed for another person as well.
Such a thing will never disappear, but people can get lost. I firmly believed in that. Thus, we raised our glasses in toast and drank. Smoke arose. It wasn’t to signal a battle that was starting— But to give that person at a place far away a chance to find this place.
Translator's Notes and References
- In Japanese, the pronunciation of spinach is the same as ‘Report’, ‘Contact’ and ‘Communication’.
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