Kamisama no Memochou:Volume 5 Chapter 3
Here Comes the Idiots of Justice
When hearing the term Yakuza, what would people associate it with? Guys with pompadours, bald heads, or a slick back haircut, savage looking eyes, light-colored sunglasses, always dressed in aloha shirts, strangely colored suits, or logo T-shirts all four seasons, and whenever the shoulders bumped, raise their eyebrows tauntingly. Well, that’s how it seems, I guess.
But this is just the biased interpretation as depicted by TV and movies.
While I’m just studying in an ordinary prefecture high school, and would move on to being an ordinary sophomore—I don’t know if it’s fortunate of me or not, but loads of people I know are from the yakuza. I guess it’s unfortunate that I can’t be certain that I knew them…really unfortunate. I was often bailed out by them, and often helped them out, so I really did understand some bits about the yakuza no ordinary person would know of.
…I always wanted to write such a prologue, but such words isn’t to give a trivia that ‘the real yakuza won’t dress so outlandishly to garner attention’. The yakuza I know of might be way different from the country’s norm.
What I know of the yakuza, to be honest,
They’re just a bunch of idiots.
Why do I know so many useless people at a mere age of sixteen? It’s all because I started working part-time that Winter.
It’s a bicycle ride no more than ten minutes from my house to my workplace. It’s in a corner of a residential block, not too far away from the station, and I could see a cluster of shopping buildings standing amidst the skies above the city; next to a dead end alley with poor ventilation was a five-storey building. At the first storey, there was a ramen shop with a fancy looking red noren, a shop I was very familiar with, called ‘Hanamaru’. My workplace’s at that very building, on the third storey. There are two days of summer vacation, but my employer wouldn’t let me off the hook, so I had to hurry here on such a hot, sweltering day.
I parked my dear bicycle by the entrance of the shop, and slipped between the buildings. Scent of the chicken soup drifted from the kitchen, and filled the dim corners of the emergency staircase, forming what might be a distillation of the sweltering, relentless heat of later August. The heat waves on the asphalt were unbearable, and I really had the urge to head back home upon seeing that, but the consequences would be really dire if I did so. I reluctantly wiped my sweat away as I approached the stairs. At this moment, the back door of the ramen shop opened.
“Oh Narumi, you’re here? Come here.”
Poking her head out of her door was the big sister dressed in a tank top, an apron around her waist, hair tied in a ponytail, with a healthy looking appearance, and exposed shoulders. She's the owner of 'Ramen Hanamaru', and everyone called her 'Min-san'.
"Oh, go bring this to Alice."
"...Wait, is this the reason why I'm called over?"
I was seething, my shoulders shaking, but I received the tray from Min-san. Alice's living on the third floor of this building, and Min-san could have brought it to her. This Alice is my employer, a bonafide NEET, and would summon me for various trivial matters. Her pickiness of food and lack of appetite was also beyond expectations, so she would order stuff unbecoming of food, like ramen without noodles, or a Chinese bowl without rice. What did she order? So I wondered as I had a look at the bowl on the tray--and found nothing. I had to bring my face over to the bowl, and look intently.
...No, strictly put, it's not exactly nothing.
With a nonchalant look, Min-san said,
"She ordered salted butter ramen without ramen, butter, char siew, leek, seaweed and soup."
"That leaves the spring onions!"
"There's also salt you know?"
"This isn't the problem!."
I nearly flipped the bowl onto the concrete floor. Spring onions is food, and food shouldn't be wasted. But…
"I've been holding back on the various weird stuff Alice orders, but this is ridiculous! Salted butter ramen with no ramen, butter, char siew, leek, seaweed and soup. What the hell is that? That's basically getting a not-handsome poor, unknown guy from the streets whose wife isn't Shizuka Kudo and calling him Takuya Kimura! That's not Takuya Kimura, that's just an ordinary passer-by!"
The usually poised and decisive Min-san too was gobsmacked, her mouth agape as she stared at me.
"...Ehh, why are you so mad? Too hot? Hungry?"
"Not at all!"
"Don't get angry now. You can sing, have a nice face, and if you put on sunglasses and not say anything, you'll resemble Gackt."
"Gackt talks too!" Please don't console me with this weird way of putting it.
"Okay okay, enough yapping and bring this up."
I got beaten up.
"I too want her to eat something nutritious, but it seems she got heatstroke recently, and lack appetite."
"She got heatstroke…?"
It's true that it's so hot, breathing is an annoyance.
"If we can't get her to eat solid foods, her stomach might shrink and disappear. Better to have her eat spring onions than nothing now, right?"
Min-san patted me on the shoulder, returned to the kitchen, and closed the door. I could only ascend the emergency staircase unwillingly.
There was a silver plate hanging on the door of the 8th room, level three. Written on the plate were the words 'NEET detective agency'. This room's the workplace of my employer, and her residence.
"Alice, I'm going in."
Recently, I had been used to entering without pressing the doorbell, and the moment I entered, there was a long, narrow corridor, with a kitchen to the right. The strong cold gusts blew in, immediately freezing the sweat on my body.
"It's so hot that I'm melting...uuu…"
The feeble voice of a girl came. The racks covering three walls reached the ceiling, and the various apparatus, including the computers, monitors and other devices were lined up upon them, the messy cables all curled out. There was also a bed in this bedroom filled with computers and cables, and this bed took up almost the entire floor space. A large number of dolls were scattered on the bedsheets, and a petite girl was buried under them. Her black hair was about as long as her height, and the slender arms exposed under the sleeves of her light blue pajamas laid weakly on the bed, together with the slender legs under the white stockings.
"Why do the seasons change so regularly? Because Hades always send his bride back to his in-laws obediently."
Alice lifted her head, grabbing the bedsheet as she uttered this ridiculous line.
"How about you migrate to the South Pole?"
"I don't want to! I'm not leaving this room at all. Bring the South Pole over to me!"
This pipsqueak of a pajamas girl hated the heat, and that's why she remained in this air-conditioned room all year, surfing the internet.
As indicated on the nameplate, she proclaimed herself as a 'detective', and I became the assistant to this detective. As for how this NEET functioned a detective, I shall elaborate further later.
"Great...it's not like the South Pole can't be brought here…"
"What did you say?" Alice suddenly jolted, her eyes sparkling with anticipation. "Are you sure it's big enough to enter my room?"
"Yes, of course. It's a little different from the dolls you love...more like love dolls. Number 1, number 2."
Once I mentioned that, i really felt a sense of regret. Since when did I become the type of person to make dirty jokes? Alice did not know what I was talking about, and she tilted her head in confusion. Then, she tapped at the keyboard diagonally behind her, and began to search the internet.
With her face beetroot, she turned around--
"Narumi...you shameless cad!"
Following that were a large bunch of cans flying at me,
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I was joking!"
I had to bear the brunt of the concentrated fire, so that I could continue to be employed.
"I guess those two milligrams of things you were born with dropped in your diapers? How about you go retrieve them now!"
I wanted to tease Alice, but she was completely agitated, her shoulders heaving as she huffed. After that, she landed on the bedsheets with a plomp.
"Seriously, what brought you here? If you're just here to make fun of me getting too hot, I shall terminate your employment right now! Scram!"
"You're asking me what am I here for? Aren't you the one who called me here, Alice?"
"I was calling for a responsible detective assistant! Not a high school kid who loves to make crude dirty jokes!"
"And that's why I apologized...brought your food too."
It's very unfortunate, but the main job of this detective assistant is to take care of Alice's dietary habits. Also, there's also the laundry and the housework. She's basically a Dr. Watson without a doctor's license, knowledge, social standing, and life experience. Wait, that's not Watson, that's just me! I told myself off as I put the bowl on the table. Alice, with black rings around her eyes, glared at me.
"Because of your uncouth actions. I have no energy to dine anymore!"
"...I see. How about I feed you? Here, open wide. Ahh--"
"Enough with such tomfoolery!"
Alice was so furious, her long hair was shaking as she snatched the spoon from me.
She chewed at the salt-coated spring onions, and there was a lonely sound echoing in the room. Is it...really nice to eat?
"Narumi, get me Dr. Pepper."
I was ordered to take out the dark red can from the refrigerator. She had no appetite, but she was still able to gulp down this disgusting carbonic drink. Her dietary needs really seemed to be based on Dr. Pepper itself.
Once she cleared the contents of the bowl and the tin can, Alice let out a long sigh, and sank into the hill of dolls again.
"This body really does annoy me from time to time…"
She buried her chin in the blanket, muttering,
"I really wish i can become an electric signal swimming in the sea of the Net. There is no need for this physical body that is so feeble, and cranky.
"...But if that happens, I won't be able to meet you, Alice."
Alice widened her eyes, her lips remained pouted as she stared at me.
"No...what I mean is...even a NEET like you who doesn't step out of the house...do actually live here, and I'm able to meet you. It's not completely a bad thing now. Don't say something that lonely."
"Wh-what's with you? You sounded so frustrated when I called you."
"Hm, well, it's because it's too hot out there, and I didn't want to go out."
In fact, I wouldn't say that I hated to take care of this little detective who had zero survival skills.
"There's no reason for me to hate you, right? I'm your assistant after all."
I implied nothing else as I said this, but Alice's eyes went red as she retreated into the hill of dolls, showing only her head.
"...Y-you're saying that again?"
"Eh? So-sorry, did I say something i shouldn't have?"
"Even if it isn't something you shouldn't have said, there's something wrong with that! How do you not understand this!?"
Alice was so agitated, she knocked down the pile of dolls, and they fell off the bed.
"Think about what you say before talking, and take responsibility of what you say! You're not a talking robot!"
"E-erm? I'm not your assistant just because I like it or not. Besides, since I'm receiving pay, I'm really treating this as a job…"
"This has nothing to do with it! Whatever!"
Alice turned her back on me, and tapped at the keyboard like a shredder. I sighed, and placed the bowl back on the tray. In any case, I should shut up and quietly retreat. Better wait for Min-san to appease her with ice cream. The daily life of a detective's assistant ended just like this.
But the events on this day did not end. While I was about to head to the door, someone kept pressing the doorbell.
"Some rare guests we have."
Alice muttered as she stared at the six monitors lined side by side away from the bed. There were surveillance cameras all over this office, and she could identify the visitors according to the clear color visuals. Once I saw it, even I was taken aback.
I could not determine any face, and saw that it was completely dark. Immediately, I realized it was the torso of a black T-shirt, and understood who the visitors were despite not seeing their faces. Given the massive figure, it had to be him.
"Nee-san, coming in now!"
"We're coming in!"
I opened the door, and a booming voice rang. Entering the house and bowing deeply was a guy 2m tall, along with another obese enough to block the door. Their chests, shoulders and arms were filled with massive muscles, nearly ripping the black T-shirts apart.
"Aniki, you're here too?"
"Hello! Good work!"
Once they noticed me standing at the door, the two of them bowed to me, as though delivering hheadbutts.
"Be quiet when you come by next time! My office is a sanctuary!"
"Apologies for this, ane-san!"
"We'll keep that in mind!"
They ended up louder than when they entered. After much reflection, they knelt down at the floor before the kitchen.
The tall guy was Pole, and the fat one was Rocky. Those were what I called them by (and speaking of which, I never knew of their actual names). As for why they call Alice 'nee-san', and me as 'aniki'.
"Well, the office is a mess without Sou-san around. The landlord even said that if the gang leader isn't around, they won't pay the protection fees…" Pole wiped away the sweat on his forehead.
"Yeah...are they looking down on us? Aniki, we need you to go around everywhere and tell off these guys!" Rocky said, his saliva spouting everywhere.
These two guys are members of the yakuza.
The Sou-san (or Yondaime as we call him) they speak of had gathered a bunch of delinquents off the streets, and formed this 'Hirasaka-gumi'. Normally, the gangs comprised of city kids would have some western-sounding name, but these guys just love their chivalry, gang rules, and brotherhood. They spent a lot of effort imitating the yakuza.
Alice and I are acquaintances of their gang leader, Sou-san, or Yondaime as we call him, and that's why we were given such respect, which was unsettling to us.
"If you are here to grumble, I can loan you the toilet to puke into."
Alice glared at them indifferently as she spat back. I supposed I should follow up here.
"Erm, well, did something happen? Yondaime's still in the hospital, and I'm still not very sure of what's going on here, so I might not be able to help…"
The gang leader they speak of was heavily injured in a previous incident. As for what happened then, I suppose I should talk about it next time."
"Yes! It's a situation where nee-san and aniki have to save us right now."
Pole's words caused Alice and i to exchange looks. While I was wondering that it was a bad thing, Rocky then followed up,
"The computer can't connect to the internet."
At that moment, Alice's eyes became so cold, I felt that in the next thirty years, the world did not need any air conditioning.
"You could have left such a crude issue to that uncouth, uncivilized assistant of mine! I have more important things to do."
There were some ice speckles mixed in Alice's voice, and I sighed. Well, I can sorta understand her reason..
"Eh...I understand, but you could have just given me a call here, right?"
"No no, how can we ask both of you to drop by…?"
"That's why we brought the computer here!"
Rocky started taking it out from under his T-shirt. "...Why did you bring it here! And how am I supposed to deal with just the monitor? It's so hot out there, and you put it on your stomach and brought it here? What are you thinking…?"
"Isn't it better for a computer to be warmer? And it's always hot anyway…"
"Both of you, kneel down to the pioneers of the computer world, starting with Claude Shannon! Heating a computer is a cardinal sin!" Alice was so furious, she was seething.
"And I figured out why you can't use the internet. You never paid the bills!"
With a hand on my forehead, I sighed. I see. Yondaime had been hospitalized through the end of the month...couldn't he have set it to auto transfer?
"So it's not broken? As to be expected.of nee-san. We spent two hours wondering, smacking it, and it wouldn't work, yet you figured out the reason immediately."
"Don't hit it." What happens if it actually breaks down?
It's not worth coming all the way here just to settle this, so the anxious duo immediately hurried back. Feeling a little worried, I stood behind Rocky, and asked,
"So, are you able to reconnect the cables?"
"Don't worry!" Rocky confidently showed me the back of the computer, "We wrote 'black' on all the ports in permanent marker.
"Because all the cables are black!"
"...Then it's pointless to remember them like that now, right?"
"Ahh, you're right!" "As expected of you, aniki!"
As expected, my foot! What did these idiots eat to become this stupid!?
And as expected, I had to head down to Hirasaka-gumi's office to connect the computer. If I let those brawny idiots in black T-shirts do this on their own, they might end up connecting the internet cable into the power port.
Thinking back about it, that was the start of the incident that ruined my last two days of summer vacation.
The Hirasaka-gumi office was located in a shorter building, behind the office block next to the nearby train station. I leaned over to the letter box, and saw bills from various enterprises. The gang's like this all because the leader wasn't around until the end of the month. Seriously, it doesn't sound like that guy trusts the bank automated transactions.
I was about to turn around and head upstairs, only to be reminded of something.
"You haven't paid rental for the office, right?"
"Yes, only Sou-san gets to use the money."
I guess. So I brought Pole and Rocky to the back. I heard the owner of this building once opened a shop on the first floor, but I didn't see the shutters rolled up. I guess the owner had been living on rental income. Better apologize to her.
"Oh? Isn't this, the leader's replacement?"
A lively looking middle-aged woman came to answer the door. Jinnai-san, the lady landlord, seemed to have known who I was despite me not talking with her.
"Rental? Well, it's fine. A few days won't matter. I heard the gang leader is hospitalized now. He certainly has it tough too."
"We're sorry, owner!"
"We'll definitely pay immediately if we can, but we don't have any money on us now. We're really sorry."
Pole and Rocky stood by my left and right, shouting.
"Ah yeah, do you mind giving a gift to the owner? It's not something valuable, but it should be pretty good for the body."
And the aunty went back into the house, returning soon after with korean ginseng marinated in honey.
"...Eh, no. We can't really accept something this pricey, right?"
"It's fine. I haven't been able to open the shop ever since my waist been aching. I wanted to have my daughter manage it. She said she wanted to open a convenience store too."
Since she said so, I really couldn't really.
"Thank you very much, owner!"
"Thank you very much!"
We came to apologize and explain our reasons for the late payment, only to be given a get-well gift. All three of us bowed profusely, and unexpectedly, the landlord kept bringing out what should be some really pricey Chinese medicine.
"No no no. We really can't accept this."
"My my, don't worry about that."
And while both of us remained in an impasse, our savior arrived on the corridor.
"Mum, if you give that many gifts, the ward room can't really store that much, right? Also, it's not easy to bring them all there at one go."
Walking out of the door was a big sister dressed in a blue camisole and a really short white miniskirt. I remember she's called Kaori-san, and she's the landlord's daughter. As they watched her put on her shoes, I hurried Pole and Rocky out of the house. The two large guys were obstructing the corridor.
"How long will Sou-kun be hospitalized?"
Kaori-san, who was heading out, asked.
"The doctor said it'll be two months for complete recovery, but Sou-san is immortal."
"So he'll be back in a week."
"Ahaha he's the same as usual. Since he isn't around, nobody's in charge of cleaning and tidying, right? Do you need me to help us?"
"No no no no, thank you for that."
I hastily refused her. This had to be handled by the gang itself.
"We have a really reliable substitute gang leader. No problems."
Pole answered as he grinned at me. So your substitute gang leader is in charge of cleaning the place?
"Substitute gang leader? Are you that amazing? Well, speaking of which, aren't you still studying in high school? It's one thing to get involved with the yakuza, but you might dropout if you don't study well, just as I did."
Kaori-san tapped at my forehead. I had to remember these words well.
As I returned to the stairs, Pole and Rocky were musing,
"That mother and daughter are both really kind people."
"They didn't hate useless people like us…"
Seriously, if I were the landlord, I would have chased you guys out. So I thought as I opened the door to the gang office on the third floor.
"Good work, aniki!"
I entered the reception room of the office, and the burly guys in black T-shirts, who were lazing around there, got up in unison and bowed to me. I really disliked them doing this every time, beside the fact that they were all older than me.
We passed through the idiots, and entered the library cum restroom cum PC room. Did they not clean up the place without their leader around, as Kaori-san had said? There's cardboard boxes on the bed, and half-emptied PET bottles on the shelves. It's a mess. Well, whatever, I'll clean up later. I moved aside the trash on the table, and started attaching the cables of the computer again.
"Amazing! As to be expected of you! Godlike!"
"One right hand and you managed to connect it!"
"And you didn't need to read the instructions!"
Shut up! If you have time to make noise, start cleaning up!
And so, nobody looked like they wanted to take action. After connecting the cables, I ended up cleaning the room myself.
I was clearing up the books in the room, only to hear the telephone ring outside.I then opened the door, poking my head out, and found that Pole picked up the call. Is he alright? If the office receives a call, it's probably work-related, right?
"...Hello! Huh? Yeah, this is Jinnai Building."
Jinnai Building, the name of this office building. Once he heard the reply, Pole gave a grim look.
"That woman's voice...what's going on? Who are you?"
I was taken aback, got the other black shirted guys to quiet, approached the phone, and started recording.
"...Our daughter? Bed? Nee-san, you mean? Hey! What do you want to do to her!? What...five million? You got to joking you bas...no, wait...shut up…hey, you're going to hang up now? If you dare touch a hair on nee-san, I'm not going to forgive you!"
With everyone listening to this conversation with bated breath, I saw Pole slam the phone down hard.
“Nee-san got abducted!”
Pole looked around at everyone, declaring this.
“What!?” “Who did it!? Looking down on us, eh?”
“5 million yen ransom?”
I stood amongst the chattering gang, and was left speechless. Alice—was kidnapped? No, wait a moment, you guys, let me calm down first. I was trapped in the vortex of rage as I took out my cellphone.
“…Ahh, Alice? Erm, well.”
I thought it was too stupid to ask, but I had to be certainly.
“You’re not, erm, kidnapped, are you?”
“What nonsense are you saying now?”
I could hear the utterly bewildered voice of the detective from the other end of the call, and sighed.
“Alice got kidnapped? For real?”
A muscular big brother couldn’t contain his excitement as he barged into the Hirasaka-gumi office. It’s Tetsu-senpai, who used to study at my high school. He kept training at the level of a sportsman every day, yet his job was a pachinko pro. In other words, he’s a NEET. Tetsu-senpai would occasionally assist Alice in the investigations, and he’s part of the detective team.
“Good work, ojiki!!”
Tetsu-senpai was old friends with the leader of Hirasaka-gumi, Yondaime, so the gang would call him respectful. Unlike me however, he could accept the respect without flinching.
“I went over to the ramen shop, and heard Alice say “Was I kidnapped?”. I thought it was interesting, so I dropped by.”
“No, erm. This isn’t a joke. Seems like someone really got kidnapped.”
Tetsu-senpai remained bemused as he sat on the desk. I played the phone recording, and midway through, senpai could not help but smirk. It’s no wonder however.
This was the call.
"...Your daughter is already with us here. Listen up. Don't call the police. If you make noise to the police, everything she did on the bed will be made known."
"...Our daughter? Bed? Nee-san, you mean? Hey! What do you want to do to her!?"
"...Y-you're not her father, but her brother? Yeah! Anyway, this woman is with me here, and you heard her, right...ahhh, you're noisy there. Tell them to shut up. Listen up, I want 5 million. You can get it ready immediately, right?"
" What...five million? You got to joking you bas…"
"You don't care if she remains alive or not?"
"No, wait...shut up. Damn it, I get it."
"Hey, I'm the kidnapper here. Can't you show some courtesy here?"
"Whatever, just prepare the money first. I'll call again later."
"…Hey, you're going to hang up now? If you dare touch a hair on nee-san, I'm not going to forgive you!"
"How did this weird conversation go so well anyway?"
Once he was done listening, senpai burst out laughing.
"The second call reached us too…"
The culprit called for Pole to be in charge of the transaction, along with the location and time. Tetsu-senpai nearly fell off the table, laughing,
"Erm, but, this probably isn't a joke. Seems like someone really got kidnapped."
"Speaking of which, I did hear a woman's scream, but it definitely didn't sound like Alice."
Now that he mentioned it, that's true.
"And how did they manage to continue the conversation even after the mistake? Didn't they check the name the first time around?"
"Ah, yeah, is this the Jinnais, he asked. So Pole answered, yeah, this is 'Jinnai Building'."
"This is probably where the misunderstanding started."
Senpai tilted his head in confusion.
"The first floor of this building always has its shutters down, but it's actually a medicine distributor managed by the landlord. Her name is Jinnai."
"So, the one kidnapped is her daughter?"
Soon after, I got a call from Alice.
"So what's the situation now? Explain clearly now. What is the misunderstanding, and how did it happen? How did the abduction of a non-blood related woman involve you guys?"
"All for justice, nee-san! We can't just ignore this." "Kaori-san and the landlord always took care of us, how can you say they aren't related?"
Pole and Rocky shouted at the phone from both sides. I had to shoo them off before explaining to Alice,
"Well, it seems the one that made the mistake was the kidnapper."
It seemed he didn't know the Jinnais' number, and had to search by address and building name, and ended up calling the third floor, where the Hirasaka-gumi office was.
"Such an unbelievable mistake."
"What happened after that was more unbelievable."
"Why didn't those heroes of justice shouting away behind you call the police directly? Did they continue to bluff the kidnapper?"
"As you guessed…"
"They didn't inform the Jinnais?"
"That's how it is…"
Alice, usually snappy with her retorts, was immediately left speechless. I too was shocked as I had just known about it, but I had to explain to Alice,
"Erm, as for why they didn't ask the police, the kidnapper asked for it, actually. And as for how Kaori-san was kidnapped, it's said that she went to a hotel after a call was made, and they took her off like that."
"So in other words, Kaori-san's job is actually, well, that kind of a unique massage work."
"I do know of Delivery Health services. You don't have to put it in a roundabout manner."
"Ah, so you heard of it? Sorry. That Number 1 and Number 2 thing to the South Pole became sexual harassment, so I'm kinda sensitive about it."
"So in other words, they're wondering that if things get out of hand, the kidnapped woman's job as a prostitute will be known to all? Seriously, always with the chivalry in such unnecessary areas, just like you."
It really hurt me gravely to be compared to the Hirasaka-gumi.
"I have a rough idea of what's going on now. I thought nobody will be bluffed into ransom at this day and age when it's high risk low reward. So he guessed they wouldn't call the police."
"Well I thought it'll be better to call the police directly…"
"I feel the same. Even if the police is to handle this, and if news of this made it to the media, they won't actually report everything about the victim, including her profession. The culprit's too naive to think he can hold her reputation as hostage."
"No! It'll be really shocking if the landlord knows that her kin is secretly doing this kind of thing!"
"Yeah! Aniki, if you know Alice nee-san is secretly doing such things, won't you be shocked?"
"H-how can I possibly do such a thing? Anyone with such imagination should just worry about their future that's bleaker than a desert on the moon!"
Alice's growl entered my ears. Also, Pole and Rocky, stop sticking so close to my face!
"And so? Are you going to help them? Leaving aside your duty as an assistant?"
"Hm, got no choice but to carry on here...Alice, erm...you're not going to help, right?"
"If an official request is made with payment, I am willing to accept this as a job. To preface, searching by GPS signal will take lots of time, and won't guarantee success, so even if we can't find her, I do demand payment for the job. "
This NEET detective's best weapon is her outstanding hacking skills. She can read into the GPS signal or cell site through external means, and can lock into that position immediately to solve this kidnapping case. Who's going to pay up for this stupid case though?
Since you can't pay, forget about it. Alice blurted as she hung up on me.
No choice here. Including Tetsu-senpai, everyone else's a fighter, and couldn't do any information gathering.
Got to ask Hiro.
"Sounds interesting here."
An hour later, Hiro said as he entered the office. He was dressed in a fitting suit of rough texture, his smile so refreshing on his boyish looks, and as he entered, he seemed to have blown aside the steam in the small reception room full of guys dressed in black T-shirts.
"I'll go ask the women I know of. Probably can get a clue there."
Hiro took out his four cellphones and shook them about. This guy has the aura of an actor, or model, or even a host, but he's actually a gigolo who leeches on women everywhere, and a NEET. Like Tetsu-senpai, he's a member of the detective team who goes about doing investigations.
"Good work, ojiki!"
It seemed this greeting was already customary to them. Hiro noticed Pole and Rocky, and burst into laughter.
"What's with the nametags?"
"Righto, I'm acting as the hostage's little brother, in charge of picking the call!"
On the chest of Pole's 'T-shirt' was a 'Jinnai's little brother' card. It was made out of torn cardboard.
"I'm in charge of negotiations."
On Rocky's chest was the card 'gonetiator'. He's probably hoping to do the job of negotiating with the culprit, I guess? He's too pitifully stupid that I couldn't retort saying that it should be 'negotiator'.
"And then? Why the 'SAT' on Tetsu?"
"Of course it's to break in when we find the culprit. Seems like I'm the leader too." Tetsu-senpai flicked at his nametag, grimacing.
"On Tetsu ojiki's orders, we'll charge in after him!"
"We're going to wipe out the culprit!"
"He dare to kidnap the landlord's daughter. How can we let him leave alive!?"
The black T-shirts around me were all riled up, and I really wanted to let this be and go home already, but for some reason, I had the nametag 'chief inspector' on me. Hiro saw me, and laughed it off. Please, just comment on this.
It's an abduction, but why is the mood so relaxed? Thinking about it--
First off, the kidnapper sounded really young. When Pole sounded a little menacing on the call, the culprit clearly sounded rattled. It seemed he's no less an idiot than these Hirasaka-gumi guys, and didn't seem like he'll be the type to hurt Kaori-san. Also, whenever the kidnapper called, I could hear Kaori-san, or a woman at least, screaming stuff like 'untie me', 'I need the toilet', 'don't do anything stupid and let me go already.
There wasn't any tension at all, either because something did happen, or that she's still save.
"What? You don't seem enthusiastic about this, Narumi-kun."
Hiro sat down on the sofa, asking me. He was so composed, it was annoying.
"Has the kidnapper made any demands at this point?"
"Yes! I gonetiated about ransom during the third phone call."
Rocky said proudly.
"I agreed to 2 million."
"We can't possibly pay 2 million now, right? Looks like we have to find the place and save her."
The other members of this temporary SAT team nodded.
"Jinnai Kaori-san...right? I did check on her before. She does work at a sexual massage services parlor called 'Tokyo Nameco Club'. Her alias is Yuuka."
A few calls to his acquaintances, some casual mentions, and he got far more Intel than us. This guy's intel network of women on the streets is really not to be underestimated.
"Now we can find the culprit quickly." Tetsu-senpai said, "We're going to find her today. This is too easy."
"Not really. It's not that easy to find information on her customers."
"She's working at s sexy massage parlor. Beat them up and they'll confess right away!"
"Absolutely not. The people at the parlor have nothing to do with this. We can't cause them trouble here."
Pole was told off by Hiro, and was really dejected. I too was wondering if I should hand over the 'chief inspector' tag to him.
"If Alice was willing to investigate where the call came from, we would have settled this immediately."
"But we can't hire nee-san even with all the money we have!"
With that, Tetsu-senpai immediately looked towards me, followed by Hiro, who wanted to say something, but didn't. After them, the gang looked towards me. Hey! What are you thinking? What are you hoping for? Don't do this to me man!
"Erm, but I don't have an idea here."
"If you're willing to ask, nee-san will be willing to do anything, right?"
"Yeah. If you speak up, aniki, she might be glad to…"
“Because nee-san obeys you all the time, aniki.”
“Me? No no no, what are you saying? Alice never listens to me, you know? W-wait a moment, Hiro. What do you know? It’s pointless to just smile and pat me on the shoulder.”
Even Tetsu-senpai pat me on my other shoulder, giving me a thumbs up too.
“Enough already, just coax her like usual. Isn’t this your specialty?”
Can you stop talking like I’m a con man already? I care about this!
“How is it possible to ask Alice to investigate without us paying up?”
“So your job is to think of a way to get her to investigate for free, since you’re the detective’s assistant.”
What do you think a detective assistant is? What’s impossible is impossible.
“Guess we got no choice but to do our own investigations. So then…I’ll look for the landlord, and act as though nothing happen while asking about her daughter.”
Saying that, Hiro got to his feet.
“Then I’ll think of Hiro’s nametag. What’s good?” Tetsu-senpai said. Aren’t you guys going to work or something?”
“How about CIA? Ojiki’s intel is great.”
“Do you know how to write CIA?”
“It’s short for Completely Innovative Assumption!”
That’s not hour it works! No, this isn’t the problem! I could only feel ashamed for quietly retorting at others and at myself. I really couldn’t remain where I was, so I grabbed the nametag, and followed Hiro out of the office.
“Eh? You’re coming along too, Narumi-kun?”
“Staying here for long will get me infected with idiocy.”
It’s cruel to say that, but it’s undoubtedly what I thought. Hearing that, Hiro chuckled as he went down the stairs. Of course, it’s best not to alarm the landlord when hearing from her. Should we explain that her daughter was kidnapped? Surely she will call the police.
“I just had a talk with Major. He’s really excited, moving all his equipment here now.”
Major’s another member of the NEET detective group. Seriously, is everyone this free?
“I say, aren’t the detective members hardboiled? I thought you guys won’t take action if there’s no request, right?”
“Not at all? This doesn’t seem like a huge case. They were able to haggle to two million on the third call, you know? The kidnapper seem amateurish. Might be a student even.”
“So, you’re just fooling around, Hiro…”
How am I supposed to be motivated for this?
“So Hiro, you can be the chief inspector.”
I stuffed the nametag that was in my fist to Hiro’s chest pocket.
“I’m not suited to be a controlling mastermind here. You’re more suited, Narumi-kun.”
“I don’t want to do this either!”
“As for me, chatting with women happily is the only thing I know.”
And so I immediately realized that he didn’t just ‘know’ that thing.
“Oh my, Hiro-kun, you’re here? Plenty of candidates today. A party?”
The landlord aunty hurried out to welcome us. They met only once or twice, and she still remembers Hiro?
This time, she treated us differently from when Pole and Rocky visited. We were welcomed into her living room. This is the first phase of a lady killer.
“I heard you gave lots of get well gifts to Yondaime. I haven’t sent anything to him, but I’ll like to give you a gift in return.”
It’s really amazing how he immediately thought of a reason to visit. He even had it prepared beforehand.
“It’s embroidery from Yondaime himself. It’s, well, the cover used for the toilet paper roll.”
“Wow! It’s pretty! That gang leader’s really great at handicrafts. Can I really accept this?”
“I guess females pay more attention to these little things, right? Since the Hirasaka-gumi is full of guys, it’s unusable even after he made this. Your household is full of ladies, and the windows are clean and comfy looking. The office’s been hot and sweaty, so I hope to visit if possible, is that alright?”
“Absolutely, any time. Since my husband died, Kaori and I were the only ones left, and it’s been quiet here…this won’t be the case if she had a brother, but unfortunately, Kaori’s an only child. The more the merrier.”
“Eh? Oh, yes. I don’t see Kaori-san anywhere. Does she have work? Isn’t it a rest day?”
“Yes…that child often goes out to do massages. Ever since I hurt my hip, she found this job where she could accompany me at home. Heard the pay’s good. She really helped me out.”
Seeing how Hiro easily diverted the topic to the landlord’s daughter, I felt really conflicted. Kaori-san started working in the sex industry because of this? What will become of aunty if she knows the truth?
Maybe Pole and Rocky’s worry was valid. I thought we could have left it to the police. Thinking about it, it was really embarrassing.
“But, soon after, our house will be really lively.”
The landlord suddenly sounded cheery.
“Kaori’s getting married this year, to a Mitsuo-san. Do you know the company Mitchell Toys? He’s the president there.”
I was shocked, and turned to Hiro. The latter didn’t show a change of expression, his eyes on the landlord, but he obviously fidgeted forward.
“I heard it’s a company that imports cute groceries from Sweden and other countries. I did visit it once, and they had some decent shops in Tokyo. Mitsuo-san had discussed with Kaori to renovate the first floor of this building along with our house, to become their shop.”
I see, so this is why. So I thought.
The culprits probably knew this. This would be the biggest reason why the police couldn’t get involved.
That chairman would know of his fiancee’s kidnapping, and would want to know the reason for that. With that, Jinnai Kaori’s real job would be exposed.
That reality might actually result in their marriage annulled.
“Kaori always dreamed of having her own shop…such a nice fellow she met. Mitsuo-san even asked if I was willing to stay with them.”
As I saw the landlord mutter dreamily, I felt an uneasy chill, and could only keep my head lowered, staring at my knees.
“I did say I’m doing this for fun, but it’s embarrassing to reflect on it.”
As we left the Jinnais’ and returned to the third floor, Hiro muttered on the staircase.
“No matter how trivial and foolish this case is, a person’s happiness can still be crushed. To think I actually forgot about this.”
Actually, I too had forgotten. The balance of kindness, malice and desires on this world remained so delicate.
No matter how silly it might seem to the onlookers, everyone did their best, Jinnai Kaori, the Hirasaka-gumi, and even those foolish kidnappers.
On the landing between the second and third level, I spoke up as I faced the back dressed in leather suit. Hiro stopped in his tracks, and turned back to look at me. Though he wasn’t smiling, his eyes appeared to have seen through my intentions, or it was just my own self-victimizing delusion.
But even so, it required a lot of courage to convert my feelings into words.
“…Please return me the nametag.”
Hearing my eyes, Hiro answered with a sincere smile.
“Understood, chief inspector.”
…It really sounds embarrassing. Can you please stop calling me that!?
6pm, and Major, the last to show up, appeared in the Hirasaka-gumi office that had become his search HQ.
“Great air. With the atmosphere of the old Japanese army headquarters.”
This little babyface of a guy, dressed in camouflage army attire, opened the metal doors and said so as he looked around at everyone. He might look like an elementary school kid, but he’s a college engineering student. He’s a military nerd through and through, so everyone called him Major instead of his actual name.
“I’ve basically analysed the recording.”
Major took his earphones out from his backpack, and shook it about.
“There should be three culprits.”
“You can tell?”
I was really impressed. Major’s the gadget expert amongst the NEET detective team, and he’s able to decipher loads of information through a single, simple phone recording.
Behind the male caller, I could hear anyone one yelling at the woman to shout up, the woman’s voice, and another one who got scolded. I couldn’t hear any other voices. It’s been the same all three times, no doubt about it.”
“Three’s easy to deal with. Let’s hurry up to beat them up.”
Tetsu-senpai’s words aside, even I had the urge to do the same. The culprits were already impatient, and so were us.
“Know where it is?” Major asked.
“Probably a hotel room. They called for service, and locked her in the room, I guess?”
A short time transpired from the moment Kaori-san left home, to the first call from the culprits. That’s the only possibility.
“Not to their houses?”
“No, that’s impossible.” Hiro continued. “That service provider only accepts business in hotels, and I guess it’s somewhat a mix of a hotel delivery and health delivery. It’s so that the girls can work at ease.”
“Hmm, so it’s unlikely a love hotel can accommodate three guys. Probably a city hotel. That narrows things down a lot.”
Major sat next to Hiro, and officially began discussing the details.
“But anyone can hire that Delivery Health service within all the three zones of Tokyo, right?” I started to ask, “We can’t determine where the place is now.”
It’ll take us days to search through all the hotels in Tokyo.
“Is there nothing else about the culprits? Those guys know the hostage very well, right? There should be one who knows her, at least. Can’t we begin investigations from there?” Tetsu-senpai asked.
I folded my arms before my chest, and went into deep thought.
As Hiro said, this case wouldn’t have happened if the culprits didn’t understand the hostage well. Surely they had to know Kaori-san engaged in sexual services, that her job was to head off from her home to the designated location, that they knew she was going to get married, or they wouldn’t have chosen her.
The problem is, chasing this lead would be too much time.
“Amazing, aniki, you guys are talking at a really high level…”
“I don’t get what they’re talking about…”
I could hear chatter from the black T-shirts gathered at the wall.
“Anyway, we’re just in charge of barging in and beating people up.”
“Can you let us go in faster?”
“Ah, about this.”
I suddenly thought of something, and had to explain, so I turned towards Pole and Rocky.
“Even if we do figure out where they are, it’s better to have fewer people go in to save Kaori-san. If possible, Tetsu-senpai alone should be enough.”
“Aniki, that not good enough!”
“Why? You’re saying we’re useless here?”
Yeah. You guys figured that out?
“We wanted to wreck that hotel too!”
“We want to beat those three into minced meat!”
“What I’m saying is that you guys can’t do that!”
Without thinking, I started yelling.
“If things get out of hand, what if the hotel staff reports to the police!?”
The black T-shirts were deflated.
Our objective here was so that aunty Jinnai wouldn’t be too worried as the mother, and solve this incident without knowing that her daughter’s kidnapped. But even so, the situation wouldn’t allow for us to orchestrate and take action. The landlord will still worry if her daughter doesn’t return home in time, and might even call for the police. On the service side, they might get suspicious if they can’t contact Kaori-san.
We had to settle this quickly. In that case.
I got up from the chair at the table, and picked up the chief inspector nametag. What are you going to do now? Hiro seemed to have sensed something for now.
“Back to being a detective’s assistant?”
“Just for a moment. Please stay guard here.”
I got onto the bicycle, and raced back to ‘Ramen Hanamaru’. The sun had just set, and the heat gathered upon my skin like flies. I cycled into the cool area of the building, and the sweat stuck onto me, making me feel greasy. Even so, I hurried up the emergency stairs, to the third floor, and took no time to catch my breath.
“Got the money?”
I hurried into the office, and that was the first thing Alice said.
“…How did you know I’ve come to make a request?”
“My assistant who’s always fooling around suddenly runs up the stairs, panting like mad, so I can guess what he wants me to do. Hiro just happened to make a call, and explained what has happened, even though we weren’t actually requested.”
“So you’re waiting for me? Great.”
“Who said I’m waiting for you? Listen to me already, will you?”
Alice suddenly hopped off the bedsheets, and stared at me. I got to the bedside, grabbed the bedframe, and slowly approached her.
“Eh, I really can’t get the money for this. Really, I can’t ask you?”
I was slowly closing in on Alice, and she appeared a little intimidated as she backed away, though still pretending to be uncooperative.
“What now? Are you intending to use your pay as a detective’s assistant to pay in instalments? If you dare have such intentions, I will set it at high interest and have you chase after debt for eternity—”
“Ahh, no, erm, that’s not what I mean. You know the Mitchell Toys company? It’s a company that imports groceries, it seems.”
For a moment, Alice looked stunned, and then, she instinctively reached her hands for the keyboard, and started searching the internet. “The one abducted, Kaori-san, is going to be married to the boss, it seems. Once they’re done, they’re going to start up shop at the first floor of the Hirasaka-gumi office.”
It appeared all the pretentious spite she had in her tone was long gone.
“They do import dolls from Northern Europe. Heard that other shops can’t get them. Isn’t it convenient if there’s one such shop here?”
The little face of the NEET detective betrayed various emotions, which then vanished. Without waiting for the changes to change, I continued on,
“But, if Kaori-san’s fiancé knows that she does special services, that shop might not open. Better save her before anyone knows about it.”
Alice’s cheeks were flushed, as she angrily puffed her cheeks.
“…Such a cheap taunt. To think that you will actually do such a despicable thing. I’ve seen it all now.”
Sorry, erm, but, we’re not treating you as a fool here, Alice. I can’t bring myself to see the landlord being unhappy.”
Alice turned her back on me, and kept typing at her keyboard. The long black hair covered her face and her petite body completely. I sighed. Was it too much too think it would end up perfectly? Leaving aside this time, I did owe her a favor, and that’s why I’m still working as her detective assistant, to slowly repay the debt.
Well, no choice but to search the city hotels here through human wave tactics, I guess. Can we make it in time? So I thought as I intended to head for the door, but—
“The phone the culprits used belongs to a college boy called Matsunaga Kouta, who’s probably one of them. They’re near the Hirasaka-gumi office, and might have encountered JinnaiKaori.”
I turned my head around abruptly, and nearly slipped and fell, before I hurriedly supported myself off the kitchen floor.
“There’s no GPS function on the phone, so I could only investigate the data in the cell site. This alone allows me to secure a range and find the hotels they might be hiding in, I guess. I sent the data to Hirasaka-gumi.”
“…You investigated beforehand? You could have said so, you know?”
“I just found this.”
Alice hastily turned her head around, her long hair overflowing.
“But didn’t you say it’ll take a long time to check the call logs?”
“Your brain is smoother than the cross-section of a Mica, yet why do you keep remembering this fine details? It doesn’t matter, right? Scram back to the office and perform your role as chief inspector.”
Hiro, you informed her of this embarrassing thing? But it doesn’t matter. All I felt a burning elation at the bottom of my belly, like liquor.
“Eh, erm, thanks Alice.”
“No need to thank me. Listen up, when that shop opens up, use that slick tongue of yours to gain a favour from Jinnai Kaori. A Cadillac of Northern Europe dolls. I’m not going to work for charity.
“…Yeah, got it.”
“And anyway, once the hostages are rescued, the culprits will be left to Hirasaka-gumi, right?”
“Yeah, should be.”
We couldn’t leave them to the police, so the gang had to punish them instead.
“I want something then.”
“The phone the culprits used to contact you.”
“A few doubtful points here. I want to know the answer.”
It’s just a case of an idiotic bunch of kidnappers who just happened to make a wrong call to an idiotic bunch of yakuza, and we’re going to end this?
Alice looked at me, and shook her head wordlessly.
“That phone might be the crux behind this. We can’t know the full truth without getting that.”
With those words, I as the detective assistant couldn’t say anything more. The detective knew more than anyone else the pain of words, whether they were the sour, unpleasant truths, or the bitter lies.
So, until all the mysteries are solved, the detective can only reject the assistant’s doubts with the line that was practically carved in stone.
“I can’t say yet.”
Thus, I could only leave the office quietly. I descended the stairs, and gave Major a call.
“…It’s me. Received it yet? Let’s start investigating. Also, tell all members not to do anything once we find them. Yeah, got it. Please.”
I folded the phone, slipped it back into my pocket, and hopped onto the bicycle. The wind got chilly after the sun set, but my body was getting increasingly hotter.
I returned back to the office, explained the situation to everyone, and Rocky spoke up.
“I know that Matsunaga!”
Next to him, Pole nodded.
“I know him too!”
“Yea yeah. He said he wanted to join us Hirasaka-gumi.”
“Eh…when was that?”
I looked over at the gang’s faces. The detective team trio and most of the gang was on the streets, starting to search for the hideout, while I had to do the intel gathering and sorting myself.
“He came by quite a few times.”
“He came by once last month. Sou-san said he wouldn’t accept students, but that Matsunaga wouldn’t listen.”
“He said that if he joined us, he won’t get bullied.”
“Some casual bastard he is.”
“He even brought a resume here. We’re a gang, not a part-time service company.”
One of the gang members went into the study, and rummaged around. Feeling curiously, I saw him take out a paper of B4 sized paper. A resume, of all things. Matsunaga Kouta in the photo seemed like the weak nerdy student, and though I can’t say it’s impossible for him to abduct someone, he didn’t seem like the type. Even at his reasons for wanting to be hired, he wrote, ‘I really admire seeing everyone so carefree when working in the office’. Actually, he’s just implicitly saying that the gang members are all idiots, right?
“Hm, so, he came by this building lots of times?”
In that case, the person who really knew about Kaori-san’s background was that Matsunaga Kouta?
“So he’s not just a stalker?”
“Yeah. If he gets to come into this office, he might approach Kaori-san without raising suspicion here.”
Stalker, that’s one possibility. Might even explain how he knows about Kaori-san’s background so well, yet did that stupid mistake.
“But the one who called isn’t Matsunaga, you know?” Pole quizzed. “The voice’s different.”
“That guy doesn’t seem like he has the guts. Probably got someone else to use his phone, I guess?”
“Yeah. He doesn’t seem like the type to be a mastermind.”
At that moment, the phone in the office rang. The tension in the room escalated. I gave Pole a look, and wordlessly informed him the ransom wasn’t raised yet.
“…Hello? Jinnai here.”
“Is the 2 million ready?”
The culprit’s voice came from the speakers. I put on the headphones, and listened attentively to the background noises for any possible clues.
“No, not yet. Not that fast. Next week at least…”
“Hey. Stop joking around. This woman sent all the money she earned from her ero massages home, right? She should have two million on hand anytime, right?”
I bit my lips. He asked such things too? No wonder he was being so forceful. Seeing that Pole’s veins were popping, I hurriedly raised my hand to stop him, “Tell him the excess money was stored as fixed deposits.” and wrote on the notebook to him.
“The money’s used for fixed deposits. I—”
“Huh? You haven’t informed the parents, right? It’s a waste of time talking to you now, damn it!”
Argh. Should I bluff him saying that the parents aren’t around? But if they had investigated beforehand, it’ll be seen through surely. What do I do? I kept thinking, and the culprit sounded more vicious.
“Hey, don’t think we’ll just wait!”
The next moment, the woman’s scream stung at my ears, and I instinctively removed the earphones.
“What did you do!?” Pole yelled at the receiver.
“Just broke a tooth or two. Don’t forget, this woman’s with us here. Take it slow, and we’ll kill her.”
“I’ll call again tomorrow. Get the money ready!” After saying these words, the culprit hung up.
“Damn you, I’ll kill you!”
Pole grabbed at the receiver, growling. The other gang members stood up, some frustrated as they slammed the sofas, and some cursing at the floor.
We really underestimated them. So I swallowed my bitterness. Those guys were stupid, and starting to get anxious. Are they really students/ Matsunaga Kouta’s just a college student, but he’s not going to kill her off, right? Is it too naïve to think of this? He might be a lackey, and we don’t know anything about the other two.
I don’t know if the landlord knows this guy called Matsunaga. But could I ask her as nonchalantly as Hiro did? So I wondered as I descended the stairs, and just so happened to meet her on the first floor, while she was coming out from behind me.
“Ah, hey…erm, you did chat with Kaori outside, right? Did she say anything else? She told me she had a customer today, that she’ll be back in the evening…but she hasn’t picked up my call.”
The landlord’s looking really worried. Damn it.
“Eh? No, I don’t know. It’s not even 8 yet. I don’t think it’s time to worry.”
The unnecessary concern slipped out of my mouth. I’m an idiot. What if she realized?
“But Mitsuo-san just called too, saying that they’re going to call and discuss about tomorrow. He’s feeling worried because he can’t find her.”
“Our shop renovations. He wanted to have a look.”
That’s really bad. The fiance’s coming.
“E-erm, when’s he coming?”
The landlord tilted her head. What am I doing? Calm down already? Can’t be too direct when asking! It’s too unnatural!
“E-erm, actually, tomorrow, we’re going to clean out the storeroom on the second floor, so it’s not convenient for the chairman to drop by tomorrow, right? It might noisy, and we’re going to move the stuff out.”
I desperately fumbled about for an excuse.
“Ahh, don’t worry about that. You don’t have to mind. Mitsuo-san he’s just dropping by in the morning before going to work, and he’ll be off to the office. But it’s worrying, Kaori hasn’t returned…”
I couldn’t drag this any further. If Kaori-san’s not back by tomorrow, we can’t do anything to conceal the fact that she was kidnapped.
“Erm, that thing that shows the location, what is that again? I can’t use that. Is it because the culprits aren’t any dumber to use Kaori-san’s phone instead? We could have solved it then.” I suddenly had a thought.
“Erm, since she’s working as a masseur, it’s probably an extra few customers, right? Also, there’s not a lot of people available at this moment. She needs to switch off her phone when working…”
The victim never realized that she was a victim, and I could only attempt to console her. I could do nothing, but it’s an important job for this chief inspector.
It was late at night when I received the call from Major. I was waiting in the office’s reception room the entire time, and was too excited when I heard the phone rang, nearly snapping the phone in half.
“Found where there are. A certain hotel in Shinuku, sixth floor. Tetsu-san will be with me immediately.”
The gang members left in the office stood up. Again, I checked the phone on my watch.
“What time did they check in until?” “11pm.”
This is bad. There’s not much time left. 20 minutes later, we can’t enter the hotel legally, and if this drags on until the next morning, the landlord will take action. The biggest issue is that if we leave the culprits alone, what will happen to Kaori-san.
“Aniki, ojiki called!”
Rocky handed me another phone.
“I’m with Major. What do we do? Do we barge in? If they have a hostage, even I can’t take them down immediately.” Tetsu-senpai’s voice came.
“Major, any way to sneak in? Try to get Kaori-san away from them…”
With two phones in one hand, I tried to engage in a three way call.”
“Not immediately. I got some stun grenades, so if needed…”
“No, absolutely not.” If that thing explodes, the hotel staff will find out immediately and call the police. What do we do?
Or do I just let Tetsu-senpai barge in? No, there’s three of them, and from the phone call, Kaori-san’s with them. If they leave her just a second, no, it’s pointless if they can’t grasp the timing. There’s no time to install a bug and see the best time to barge in. What do I do? I instinctively reached for the nametag before my chest. I’m the chief inspector, everyone’s waiting for me to give the go signal. I can’t continue to space out. I have to decide on something immediately.
At that moment, my eyes landed upon the B4 paper on the table.
I didn’t know that piece of paper attracted my attention initially. However, as I tried to divert my attention between major and Tetsu-senpai’s voice, something in my ears left me curious.
Something’s suspicious about that.
The many blocks of puzzles collided in my mind, gradually forming shape.
Yes. Matsunaga Kouta knew of the Hirasaka-gumi existence.
And with an assumption as basis, I put these words on the blank canvas.
Can it work?
I didn’t know. But I had to try.
“…Hey, Narumi. Hey!”
“What happened, Vice Admiral Fujishima? If we don’t hurry.”
I finally recovered as Tetsu-senpai and Major’s voice entered my ears.
I coughed twice to clear my dry throat,
“Let’s barge in.”
“Yes. Check in immediately, and get up to the level where the culprits are. But don’t barge in immediately. Erm, at 11pm sharp. Not a second earlier or later.”
“I’ll explain later. Hurry. Senpai, just think of to get Kaori-san out. Major, get away once you break the lock. Also, you there, Hiro? Please get the other gang members to wait outside, and once they get out, please nab them.”
I put the connected cellphone by my ear as I went to the PC in the restroom. I opened the email, affirmed the phone mail address Matsunaga Kouta wrote in his resume, and entered my final gambit. The messages that appeared in my mind were so smooth, even I was in disbelief. I had no hesitation in pressing the ‘send’ button.
Following that, there was nothing this chief inspector could do. I grabbed the nametag on my chest, held it in my left palm, and brought the second cellphone to my ear, hearing the background sounds of the footsteps, the elevator, Tetsu-senpai’s heartbeat, and Major’s calls, quietly praying.
The time on the computer was 10.59pm. Major muttered the final words,
Clenching my sweaty hands, I answered,
At 11pm sharp, the sound of metal and cracking bones formed a terrifying noise, dispersing from the phone into my ears.
The long night ended, and the next morning arrived.
August 31st. For a summer vacation without rest nor play for me, it was a terribly fitting ending. I welcomed that morning on the sofa of the Hirasaka-gumi office.
To the left and right of me were massive bodies that contorted the sofa; snoring away in unison and their mouths open were Pole and Rocky.
The nametags ‘Jinnai’s little brother’ and ‘gonetiator’ were already removed.
On the sofa opposite me were the other gang members on standby, sleeping in an unsightly manner. The blurry heat remained atop the glass table, and the morning sunlight shone through the window, forming a clear silhouette on the ground.
The high heat and stench of sweat seeped into my consciousness, gathering upon me.
But I had no strength to stop up.
I could only move my eyes to look at the clock. It was 9am.
It was ten hours since the operation ended.
I could feel the pores all over my body being sleepy, but I really felt uneasy sleeping between the stupid giants again, so I had to pry myself off the sofa, and stood up.
There was the sound of a car parked before the building. I gently nudged the metal door aside, and went out, trying my best not to wake up the men in black T-shirts. There was a shiny Lexus sedan parked by the roadside, and a posh looking man dressed in a grey suit, in his mid-thirties exited the driver seat.
“Sorry for making you worry yesterday, Mitsuo-san. I got hurt while at work, but I’m fine.”
A gentle voice followed, and before my eyes was Kaori-san running onto the road.
Ten hours or so passed since the case ended, I believe. It’s amazing that she could act like nothing happened.
And nothing did happen after all. We piled upon loads of lies and unwise actions, all to welcome such a morning.
When I got back home, I was told off by my older sister for staying out the whole night. I went to take a shower, and wash away the sweat sticking all over my body. I was halfway through changing my clothes when I fell asleep, and it was evening when I showed up at ‘Ramen Hanamaru’.
“5 seconds in and those two were swallowed up, those two! Major, recorded any footage of them?”
“No, After picking the lock, I got out of the hotel as fast as I could.”
“I had it tough too. Those Hirasaka-gumi guys were so excited, I really gave my all to stop them…”
The summer sun was hanging in the west, but Tetsu-senpai, Major and Hiro were gathered around the rotting wooden table before the emergency stairs, stacking up empty beer cans as they discussed their heroic exploits.
“Ohh, here comes the chief. Good work there, chief.”
“No, please don’t call me that already…”
I waved my hand in response to Tetsu-senpai’s joke, and sat on the old tyre seat between Major and Hiro.
“You seem really tired, Narumi-kun, even though it’s the next morning after your complete victory.”
“We should have celebrated last night, but you said you wanted to sleep, Vice-Admiral Fujishima, and that’s why we delayed it till today. You should be pumped up here.”
You guys haven’t slept at all, right? How are you still so energetic?
“It’s a complete victory, and I’m not exactly unhappy at all…”
“What? It’s because of that work you did beforehand, Narumi. When I barged in, the hostage just so happened to be in the toilet, and keeping guard at the door was that Matsunaga kid.”
Is that so? In other words, the message I sent worked.
Even though it was a completely baseless gamble.
“Narumi-kun, what did you do?”
“I sent a message to Matsunaga’s cellphone.”
The trio widened their eyes. But that’s really it.
“I sent a message while posing as Yondaime, ‘2300, August 30th. It’s the entrance test. Show me your guts’.”
“…What was that about?”
Tetsu-senpai groaned with confusion.
“Erm, if I sent a message to Matsunaga, all three culprits would have seen it, right? So I sent a message only Matsunaga could understand, that the Hirasaka-gumi would take action at 11pm.”
And Matsunaga did react.
So that’s why he sent Kaori-san to the toilet.
“Eh, eh, wait a moment.”
Hiro looked at me with surprise.
“So, in other words, that Matsunaga was helping us?”
“Results-wise, that was the case.”
“But please don’t ask me why, because I really didn’t understand. I just decided on that operation instinctively.”
To be honest, I took action based on some really, really stupid reasoning. It might be better to call it a hunch, so I didn’t say the reason.”
“I don’t understand at all.”
Tetsu-senpai ruffled the short hair on his head.
“So, in other words, like usual.”
Hiro rummaged his pocket as he said,
“Only Alice understands everything, right?”
He pulled out a phone I had never seen before.
“Eh…that’s the phone the culprits used, right?”
“Yeah. Didn’t Alice ask you for this?”
That’s true, but I had long forgotten about this. I received this phone Alice called ‘the crux to everything’.
The fragments of empty knowledge.
Meant for nothing other than to satisfy the detective’s craving.
“So Hiro, what about those three?”
Tetsu-senpai suddenly mentioned this.
“They got locked in the Hirasaka-gumi’s storeroom. Probably will have some divine judgement on them tonight, taken out one by one, and beaten up.”
“That’s just a waste of time and effort, right? We should have stripped them and thrown them onto the main street yesterday.”
Major bluntly retorted.
“Well, they still have to settle this. Those guys are all about chivalry, so they’re going to settle this their own way.”
Tetsu-senpai patted Major on the shoulder as he said this.
Right, we still had to end this. Even after everything went well, that everyone was happy, cheering and celebrating, the detective’s not overwhelmed with elation. Even at the height of the feast, she’s watching the numbers, utensils, and the number of invitations.
Such was the outcome Alice sough.
So I took the cellphone, and turned towards the emergency staircase.
Alice, holed up in the pile of dolls on the bed, grabbed the phone from my hands, stared at the crystal screen for a moment, and nodded. She then sighed, and without a word, turned to the monitor.
“…Erm, you figured out something?”
I asked cautiously.
Everything’s revealed. The detective’s job ends here. Alice practically earned nothing from this job. The only materialistic proof she got should be the truth recorded in the phone.
“But you don’t seem happy about this.”
“Yes. I’m really miffed about this.”
Alice actually didn’t deny, and that took me by surprise. Miffed?
“I worked so hard to stack up the blocks, slowly crawling like a caterpillar, and ended up right at the same place as you when you jumped off with a parachute and your eyes closed.”
I sighed, and gently sat by the bed.
Through logic, Alice obtained the same answer as I, when I did so through a blind guess, but her method couldn’t solve this in time.
I understood very well how helpless she was.
“…You’re not going to tell me?”
The black hair swayed.
“It’s pointless to tell you alone. At least—”
The doorbell rang at this moment. Alice kept quiet, and stared at the surveillance footage by her beside.
“—They’re here. Go out and welcome them.”
I got up, and glanced aside at the monitor. The surveillance cameras outside the office were blocked by the chests of the black T-shirts, just as this all started yesterday. Today however, there’s one thing that wasn’t there yesterday—
Brown fringe, thin eyebrows, and two eyes.
I muttered, was nudged forward by Alice, and hurried to welcome her at the door.
Kaori-san left Pole and Rocky on the corridor, and entered the office alone.
“Sorry for dropping by unwelcomed. I wanted to thank you, and they said you’re here, so they brought me here.”
She said as she entered the bedroom, and like everyone else who entered this room, she was dumbfounded to see Alice on the bed.
“…Erm.” It’s too complicated to explain this. “This one here is Alice, and she’s…our brains, you can say. We found the hotel you’re at thanks to her.”
Alice shrugged, and said,
“No need to make things complicated. Just call me a detective.”
“…I really don’t understand.”
Kaori-san sounded really confused as she continued.
“Erm. Then, I should be thanking this little lady, right?”
“Not at all. Most of the credit goes to this chief inspector.”
Mind not calling me that now? But Kaori-san kept looking at me, and lowered her head.
“…Thank you for saving me. Last night was my last day at work. I originally intended to resign earlier, but I was told there wasn’t enough people, so I had to help. So…I never expected that to happen. …you never called the police, nor notify my mother, right?”
“No, erm, well.”
I really didn’t know how to answer.
The secret we worked so hard to hide wasn’t exactly anything good, so Kaori-san lowered her head sheepishly.
Alice broke the silence.
“…One of the culprits is Matsunaga Kouta. You know him?”
Kaori-san didn’t say anything, her eyes hesitant for a while, before she nodded.
“He’s a frequent customer of yours, right?”
“…You seem to know everything?”
“This is only my guess. I can’t think of any other reason why Matsunaga Kouta got involved with you.”
Kaori-san sighed, and nodded.
“That guy’s a poor student, yet he kept asking for me. He just wouldn’t do anything, just sit on the bed, chat with me. It’s easy for me, but he was a strange customer. So I got too relaxed, and started talking lots of things with him. He started stalking me, and even did what he did last night. It’s unforgivable.”
Why, exactly? I just had to wonder.
And the detective, who did apprehend the culprits and should have revealed the truth, was giving a gentle look in her eyes for some reason.
“Yesterday, I was in the hotel. Those two were hiding in the hotel, and came out. I tried to get away, but it was too late. I heard they graduated from Matsunaga’s college. They knew…that I was about to get married. It seemed the two seniors thought it was fun, and called me over.”
“So they never intended to kidnap you initially?”
“Yes. Those two adults were so old, yet they were trying to coax Matsunaga into doing it once with me before I got married, like he’s a baby. But Matsunaga kept backing off, and they got sick of him. They even threatened to ransom my family. How terrible.”
Kaori-san grabbed her shoulders that were still shivering. I had to interrupt.
“That Matsunaga was simply forced by his seniors to get involved, I believe.”
Kaori-san glared at me, yelling.
“He just kept watching quietly. He’s no different from the others! If he hadn’t made the wrong call, I wouldn’t have known what to do! Seriously, I shouldn’t have gotten involved with someone like him!”
“But he hasn’t been watching quietly.”
Alice’s sudden words left Kaori-san covering her move, and she looked at the detective’s face.
“He wanted to save you the entire time. He didn’t have the courage to go against his seniors, but he fought on.”
“…What…are you saying?”
“You did mention to Matsunaga that you’re the only daughter, right?”
Kaori-san’s face froze.
“So Matsunaga knew that you have no little brother. The first call our subordinate received called himself as your brother. If Matsunaga had been implicit in this, he would have pointed it out since it was a mistake, right?”
Kaori-san looked distraught as she continued to refute.
“That’s impossible too. That phone cannot possibly make a wrong call.”
The expression on Kaori-san’s face froze.
“Even in the same building, on the third floor, there was no way such a mistake could be made. That was a trap Matsunaga had set up. He had the Hirasaka-gumi number stored in his cellphone, under the name ‘Jinnai’.
“It’s true. Look.”
Alice opened Matsunaga’s phone, and brought it to Kaori-san’s face. The latter’s eyes were turned towards the screen.
“…M-maybe Matsunaga entered the wrong number when he was looking for my house? Isn’t that it?”
“Not at all. He did change the name. Look at the reading.”
Alice pointed at the bottom of the screen, where the reading was.
“When entering the name of this ‘au’ phone, the reading will be automatically added. But if the input is changed, the reading will not be changed. It’s a lousy function, but it did work out this time.”
It proved the moment of courage from a useless bum. So Alice muttered as she put the phone in Kaori-san’s hands.
He had initially pressed the wrong button, or not. It was a little trap. That trap was not pointless. For he called—
“…Why? Why do this? He could have.”
Kaori-san muttered to herself, her voice shaking.
“Yeah, there might be a better way. It’s possible to trap them and send them to the police station, and that could have settled things easily. But…”
Alice nudged herself on the bedsheet, and lifted her head towards Kaori-san’s face.
“Matsunaga chose the Hirasaka-gumi. Do you know why? Because there’s no one else who can protect your happiness as it is. Neither a detective nor the police could do it, only these idiots of justice.
Kaori-san seemed like she had something to say, but didn’t voice out. All her words seemed to be absorbed into the phone she was gripping.
“Matsunaga really hoped that you’ll be happy. That thing in your hand is the proof.”
After a long, long time, Kaori-san’s words sank through the silence, landing upon the bedsheets.
“…But even so.” Her eyes were look back and forth between the detective’s slender thighs, “What am I supposed to do with this thing?”
“Make your choice.”
Alice’s voice was devoid of warmth, the kindness bleached away.”
“Those were the feelings conveyed to you. It’s your choice to abandon or trample upon it. You can’t give up on the choice.”
Kaori-san’s lower jaw was shivering.
She appeared to be nodding, and shaking her head.
Until she left the office, I sat by the bedside, thinking about this.
Matsunaga at this point should be beaten up good by Hirasaka-gumi, along with the other two guys. Even after they got beaten up, they’ll be let go anyway. He’ll start to look for the lost phone, and call the cellphone that’s in Kaori-san’s hands, right?
So what would Kaori-san do? To abandon it, or trample upon it?
Or throw it back?
I didn’t know. That’s her choice.
The job of the detective and this chief investigator was already done.
So, should I return to being a high school student? There’s less than ten hours until the end of summer break, and I had not prepared myself for school, let alone touch a single assignment. So I thought as I went towards the door, but Alice spoke up.
“There’s also something I want to ask.”
Alice sounded really miffed, and I had to stop by the fridge, looking back at her timidly.
“So I say, how did you manage to come to the same conclusion as I did? Did you expect Matsunaga to help save the hostage? And you figured it out faster than I did! I can’t believe a fool like you took the lead on me. What did you discover?”
“Well…I didn’t really discover something. I just had a hunch.”
“Even if it’s a hunch, you’re too trusting of Matsunaga.”
“Ah, what I believed in wasn’t Matsunaga. I never met him anyway. I just believed that no one can be as stupid as those guys of the Hirasaka-gumi.”
Alice’s mouth was half opened.
It was awkward, but I continued.
“Think about it. This incident started because some idiot made a wrong call, and the idiot Pole picked up the phone, making a mistake, and the idiots Rocky and the others added on to the mess…how’s that miracle possible?”
It’s impossible to have a situation where a tray carrying coffee and milk toppled over, that instead of the cups breaking, coffee milk was found.
But if someone knew about these guys’ idiocy, and bet on it…
The calendar. Matsunaga knew about the Hirasaka-gumi’s existence, that they’re all idiots.
If that’s the case—
I just bet on this possibility.
Maybe this was the limit Alice couldn’t cross? Betting on a ‘possibility’ isn’t exactly a detective’s job here.
I carelessly looked back, and found Alice sprawled on the bedsheet, her long black hair like soaked seaweed, scattered apart.
“Wha-what’s wrong? You alright?”
“This is the first time in my life that I feel so defeated…”
No, you don’t have to be shocked by this, right? It’s just instinct.
And at that moment, the office door opened behind me, the two voices bellowing,
“Aniki, Kaori-san has gone back. We got nothing to do.”
“Aniki, today’s your last day of summer vacation, right? We’ll continue to play the game of finding the HQ. I think I might be a gonetiator at this.”
“You two, sit in a seiza!”
Alice hopped off the bed, shouting.
“There’s not enough space.”
“You can sit on top of each other, I don’t care. And Narumi, where are you trying to run to? Sit down too. I’m going to start researching into the thought process of idiots, and you’re going to translate it for me.”
Spare me already. But with Pole and Rocky’s massive bodies blocking, I, standing by the side of the bed, couldn’t budge an inch.
“First question. Tell me, what is the prefecture capital of Miyagi?” “To the East!”
“Idiot, that’s Miyazaki Prefecture!” “What Miyazaki Prefecture, that’s not even a name!”
And I had to retort. Thus, I accompanied Alice with her idiot counsel till late at night.
This summer vacation full of commotions continued into the last night full of commotion.
Translator's Notes and References
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