Kamisama no Memochou:Volume 9 Chapter 3
We arrived at a large general hospital facing Sumida River.
Once we entered the back door, we found the chapel hall to the right, featuring a cross. It’s most likely a Catholic hospital. The Rolls-Royce Phantom passed the parking lots, but did not enter, instead arriving at the courtyard. It appeared this hospital had been renovated multiple times, and the newer, white seven storeyed building appeared modern, yet there was an old looking grey, four storeyed building in the middle of the courtyard.
It was the hospital Yondaime told me of, and Alice often came by.
It seemed ironic, I felt. It’s the place where the Shionjis bore their illegitimate children, and invested heavily to elevate the personnel and facilities, yet it ended becoming their flagship hospital, where both the Head and the successor were hospitalized at.
Alice scowled as she shrank into the seat next to me, wearing a light, onion-colored dress with white frills at the collar, headband and sleeves, resembling a doll there. She was hugging the teddy bear in her right hand, grabbing a miniature PC in a case with her left.
“Milady, we have arrived. Everyone is waiting for you.”
The legal advisor leaned over from the co-driver seat, glared at me with hostility, and turned away.
To be honest, I was really surprised when Alice insisted that I come along. The doctor and doctor had insisted that no outsiders were to be involved, “I’m not going if Narumi’s not coming along” but Alice forced them to abide.
Is it really a terrifying thing for her to appear before the Shionjis? So I asked myself. I couldn’t help in any way, but she wants me to be by her side?
There were a few cars parked in the courtyard, each of them black and sparkling, large continental cars. The Rolls-Royce we rode on was parked by the side. The chauffeur got off first to open the door on my side. The hunks in suits gathered by the other cars looked towards us. They were probably chauffeurs, all wearing white gloves, probably waiting for their masters.
I had Alice get off first, and narrowed my eyes to look at the hazy day in the season of flowers. There was an uneasiness coagulating inside my heart. What future awaits us? Why are they looking for Alice?
No matter my thoughts, the white robed man used such means to get Alice to the hospital, and surely it’s not simply because he wanted the grandfather to see her one last time.
There was some distance to the hospital building, but Alice stopped in her tracks, and muttered,
“This hospital is as annoying as before. Stained glass, cross…”
The windows on the first level were covered with stained glass depicting the Archangel Gabriel and the Holy Mother Maria, and there was a little cross on the door.
“That side’s the gynaecology section, so they had the Holy Birth depicted here. Bad taste, isn’t it? I find it dumb every time.”
“Milady, you have to come by for checks more often. You have a weaker constitution, and you should be more careful…:”
The doctor caught up to us, and humbly noted,
“Hmph. You doctors simply wish to use my body as an experiment for your drugs, no?”
“From a scholarly viewpoint, we have interests in your constitution, notably the genetics. Your health however is our true worry—”
I looked towards the hospital door where the voice came from. A white shirted woman came running over with her long hair flowing. It’s Mari-san.
“Yo-you really came by? Why…”
She ran by us, and immediately grabbed Alice’s hands, asking with a croak. She might have been take away if the lawyer and doctor wasn’t present. Alice shoved aside her sister’s hand, and turned her head aside, noting angrily,
“Kei nii-sama threatened me.”
Mari-san looked back and forth between Alice and me.
Following that were footsteps, and a silhouette in white immediately appeared at the hospital entrance. Shionji Keiichi had his hands in the pockets of his white robes as he strode towards us.
“…You came along too?”
He immediately glared at me, saying this. Alice immediately hid behind me. Even though I lost in rigor, I glared back at his bespectacled eyes, nodding.
“I don’t know what you guys will do to Alice if she’s to come alone.”
“It doesn’t matter whether you come by or not.”
Shionji Keiichi then turned his eyes towards Alice,
“You acted quickly, Yuuko. I thought you would try to dither a little further. Are you really this relieved to have him as your escort?”
“Enough with that nonsense.” Alice turned her eyes aside, pouting, “The computers you ruined are the tools I use for business, Kei nii-sama. I can’t play with them like before. I just want to return me my administrative rights as soon as possible.”
“Seeing that you’re here is enough. I’ve already restored your access rights.”
Alice widened her eyes, frisked out the computer, and tapped at the keyboard. Soon after, she heaved a sigh of relief.
“…How’s father doing?” Alice asked.
“You’re not asking about the Head?” Shionji Keiichi tilted his head.
“What happens to that old man doesn’t matter.”
“Everyone’s getting you here because it does. You won’t say such a thing if you know what the will entails?”
Shionji Keiichi turned around, and said,
“Mitsuki-san showed no change. He remains the same.”
I wordlessly watched the white silhouette return to the hospital, and Alice was next to me, pursing her lips. Mari-san tried talking to us several times, but hesitated, and gulped.
The lawyer, chauffeur, and the doctors from the other cars surrounded us,
“Now then, please come here, Milady.” The lawyer’s voice nudged Alice from the back.
“Everyone’s waiting, so do greet them first.” The doctor and lawyer said, but no matter how they tried to coax, Alice insisted on seeing her father first. Thus, with the company of Mari-san and Shionji Keiichi, we went to the sixth floor of the hospital.
Mari-san slid her card at the reader of the ward door, and the double automatic doors were slowly sucked into the wall.
It’s a lonely looking ward room. The space double the size of a classroom contained a bed by the wall, along with several machines and drips lying by the side. The curtains were bundled up, and the large sky could be seen. There were seasonal flowers on the bedside table and the windowside rack. Even so, I could sense the scent of death permeating heavily in this entire room, like a thick fog.
There was a man lying motionlessly on the bed.
I don’t know how he looked like, for the artificial ventilation mask had covered his face completely. All I could see was a slender, thin neck, and a strangely protruding throat knot.
“Dad, how are you…Yuuko’s here.”
Mari-san approached the bedside, saying this, but the closed eyes remained unmoved. Alice waited at the door, and immediately pinched the teddy bear forcefully, biting her lips so hard they went pale. I glanced at her sidelong face, and then back at the bed.
All I could think of was a decrepit expression. A living corpse.
Alice adamantly moved forward, and I too followed her little foosteps. Shionji Keiichi hurried right behind us, and went to the other side of the bed. Mari-san might have visited him often, for she skilfully wiped the patient’s neck and armpits, and changed the water in the vase.
We finally reached the bedside.
I could not see any life on the parched skin beneath the bandages, masks and circulatory tubes.
Alice placed the teddy bear by her mouth, muttering this much.
She was a detective who could manipulate millions of word, and could dissect, analyze and revert each and every case. Yet these were the only words she could eke out.
I observed Mari-san’s face discreetly, followed by Shionji Keiichi. Both their eyes were staring at the body on the bed that was still warm, Shionji Mitsuki’s.
“Want to touch his chest? You can felt his heart beating.”
She’s basically saying that the other parts were numb to the fact that he’s alive. Alice bit her lips, shaking her head to refuse..
I couldn’t help but remember the time Ayaka was hospitalized. This was much worse than back then, since she could still breathe by herself back then.
“We’re just extending his lifespan for no reason; he’s been unconscious for eight years.”
Saying this, Shionji Keiichi turned to look at the doctor.
“If the doctors had deemed him brain dead from from the beginning, Mitsuki-san won’t have to atone by living, and the Shionjis won’t have to gather for this particularly troublesome issue.”
“Ho-how’s that allowed? Please, enough with those jokes, Keiichi-san.”
The doctor kept shaking his head. I froze up as I listened to these words.
Eight years. Alice’s dad, Shionji Mitsuki was forced to live for eight years, despite his condition not improving in the slightest.
Something really terrible must have happened.
Alice ran away from home, and her father’s in a vegetable state. Both happened eight years ago. It matched, and I guess it’s not a coincidence. Doubts kept swirling in my mind, choking me, and I wanted to ask, but couldn’t. However, this knot might have received Alice through our hands.
“Dad…jumped from the third floor of the house. Carrying me.”
Alice said dejectedly. Mari-san gave a bitter look, and averted her eyes.
“Dad used himself as a pincushion to help me to escape, and I was unhurt. Grandpa passed out spouting white foam, and the entire family broke into chaos, so I had a chance to escape. Dad attracted attention for my sake.”
“Enough, Yuuko.”Mari-san shook her head again.
“Dad’s basically killed by me.”
I could do nothing other than to hold Alice’s hand.
With the doctor prompting us, we left Shionji Mitsuki’s room. While taking the elevator back to the first floor, Alice, Mari-san and Shionji Keiichinever said a single word. I felt the presence of death seeping into my skin, and my palms kept rubbing at my jeans.
After that, I was brought to a luxurious guest room, one that didn’t seem to be part of the hospital. The round teak tables had ample spaces between them, resting upon the silk carpeted floor. The large porcelain vases by the window contained red, white and yellow orchids, the artistic chandeliers formed by countless silver rings, not lacking in class despite the simplicity
A dozen or so people were seated, some chatting with each other, some merely spacing out to look at the grey skies outside the window, some shoving tobacco into their nostrils, some fiddling with their phones. All of them were dressed in formal clothing, either black or navy blue. Once Alice and I followed Mari-san in, the talkers stopped, glaring heinously at us.
“...Hey, who’s that boy?”
The middle-aged man seated at the nearby door.
“Keiichi-san, what are you thinking? Why did you bring an outsider over?”
A woman of about fifty years old at that table was dressed in Japanese clothing, and she looked towards Shionji Keiichi with disdain.
“I brought him here, stepmother.”
Alice’s words caused the majority present to shrivel.
“Narumi’s my assistant. If he isn’t allowed to come along, I’ll be going back.”
The lady, whom Alice called stepmother, was probably Shionji Mitsuki’s wife. She stated coldly,
“Yuuko, this is a family meeting, not something an unrelated outsider can listen to..”
“Do oblige, Kyouka-san.”
Shionji Keiichi spoke with a colder voice,
“It’s pointless to argue about this. I can assure you that he can keep secrets”
“Eh, but...” “So the stray cat has brought the stray dog back.” “So that’s why I said not to bring her back.” “Like we got a choice. She’s an implicated party.”
There was a commotion from all involved. I guess this is what they mean by sitting on a needle bed. I lowered my head and looked at myself for wearing an open jacket and jeans, thinking that I should have worn the suit Mari-san gave me.
“Speaking of bringing outsiders back, aren’t you the same too, Kyouka-san?”
Shionji Keiichi said, looking back at the woman, Shionji Kyouka, along with the men at her table, who too frowned in unison.
“What outsiders?”“How rude.”
“So my father and older brother are outsiders now?”Shionji Kyouka quietly retorted.
“Aren’t those not Shionjis outsiders?”Shionji Keiichi answered.
“I am a Shionji after all.”Kyouk’s voice was seething. So my father and brother are basically relatives of the Shionjis.”
“You moved out for twenty years, and now you have the cheek to say that you’re a Shionji?”
The young man by the window taunted, and Shionji Kyouka glared over agitatedly.
“It’s to be expected that she would move out though.” The man being Kyouka’s brother said, “it’s Mitsuki-san’s who’s unfilial to Kyouka. She’s the victim.”
“You could have divorted him.?”
“Are you trying to ruin the rest of Kyouka’s life!?”
The topic had veered in a completely different direction, aflame for a completely different reason. Both sides seemed to have long forgotten about me as I listened to that ugly dispute, trying my best to sort out this complicated situation. It seemed the wife left the Shionjis for many years, probably because she discovered that her husband had an affair, and remained at her own house. However, she did not demand a divorce, and once the inheritance matter came up, she brought her family along for this family meeting. No wonder it’s a toxic mood here. I suddenly felt nauseous.
When the lawyer had enough, and wanted to say something, a white haired old man standing by the window side turned around, and bellowed,
“Who cares about a few outstiders? Just settle this annoying meeting and get it done with.”
A few people looked over to him tentatively, and I too narrowed my eyes at the face of the old man.
I could see that it was Gorou-sensei’s brother. His dignified look resembled Gorou-sensei, albeit with the kindness on his face drawn away.
“...If you say so, I have no objections, uncle...”
The wife sighed, and turned to the back
“What do you say now, everyone?”
I again scanned the crowd, and was taken aback. It was obvious who was a non-Shionj. The Shionjis had the mysterious allure of a poisonous flower, and only the table Shionji Kyouka was seated at did not have such a dangerous presence.
Everyone not a Shionji is an outsider.
“Have we figured out that man’s background? It’s not easy to get him to shut up. Let him stay around. It’s not going to affect much.”
A man said as he looked at him, looking frustrated as he had an elbow on the table. He appeared to be about forty, and really resembled Shionji Keiichi. However, he might be too young to be called the father. He’s probably an older brother with quite the age gap. The bystanders exchanged looks, and nodded unwillingly.
They agreed to let me remain, but it drove me further into despair. If they could chase me away, I could have brought Alice along and went back. I didn’t want to breathe in this toxic atmosphere any second longer.
The old man by the window side pulled a chair over, and sat down, nodding towards us.
“Then, I’ll start off by explaining the Head’s situation.”
The bespectacled doctor waiting behind me said with trepidation, saying,
“Currently, the Head’s liver, kidney and heart vitals are really low, and his unsconscious. It’s likely that—”
“Mind just saying how many days does he have left, Sonomura-sensei?” A young man who had been sneering the entire time asked. The doctor called Sonomura deliberately coughed a few times, and said,
“...Might be today or tomorrow.”
“He’s leaving a lot of trouble even when dying. Why doesn’t he clean up his mess before dying?”
The old man muttered.
Nobody tried to stop him, and everyone gave awkward looks.
“He was still alive and kicking just a few days ago.” “Didn’t he go to Germany for a business meeting last month?”
“Never thought he would fall now...” “I thought he’ll live to a hundred.”
I could hear such conversations.
I firmly felt once again that this wasn’t where I should be. I’m in a quagmire. Even though they agreed for me to be around, they probably would say this to a brat they never met, and never bothered with me, because they’re this way, or that they didn’t care since the Head’s death would signify an inheritance crisis?
“Since Nakatani-sensei is here, I suppose it’s time to announce the will, right?”
Shionji Kyouka coldly cast a glare to the lawyer by the side. Nakatani-sensei took a handkerchief to wipe away the sweat under his chin, and spoke up, “Erm, I have been sworn to secrecy, so it’s inconvenient.”
“Let’s respect the pointless words then.” Shionji Keiichi said, “We’ll make our own guesses, and you can remain quiet while hearing our guesses, Nakatani-sensei. We might get some subjective takes from your reactions, but isn’t that against your obligation to keep a secret?”
After hearing Shionji Keiichi say this, Nakatani-sensei nodded with a heavy look. This really is a disgusting family meeting.
“If the mistress’ children are here, what’s there to guess about the will?”
The young man sarcastically noted,
“After what happened to Mitsuki-san, the Head firmly believed he’ll recover one day. That’s why the will probably will work out that way, that it’ll be all given to Mitsuki-san?”
Nakatani-sensei then replied with an unflinching face, his head twitching about.
“Eh, yes...as a professional, I will like to share some knowledge with everyone. The law dictates that the inheritor shouldn’t involve nieces and nephews, so in the Head’s case, the inheritor will be the siblings. Furthermore, if the legal inheritors are dead, the inheritor’s children will take over. Eh, basically, if the Head had specified that his sister, Terumi-san to take over, his son, Mitsuki-san will be the designated legal heir. The outcome might remain the same, but, hmm...”
The lawyer pretended to brief them on additional knowledge, but in fact, it was no different from answering yes.
“Fool, he’s no different from a dead man now.” The Old man cursed. I could feel Mari-san jolting next to me. The old man glared at her, and continued, “We can give him all the money, but what about the stocks and fixed assets? This impacts the livelihood of the employees.”
“Grandfather, have you discussed this with the Head? You’re a legal inheritor too, right?”
Shionji Keiichi asked the white haired old man, and the old man shook his head.
“Nope. That brother never mentioned this all these years.”
The lawyer then spoke up nervously,
“I wish to share more legal knowledge , as a legal professional. There are no special hierarchies between the siblings and any third party. In other words, even if the Head had specified in the will that Terumi-sama is to receive all of it, Mikitsugu-sama, you have no right to ask for a share...so, erm...”
He’s basically revealing the contents of the will. It appeared the old man was the Head’s brother, Shionji Mikitsugu. Seeing how his expression did not change, it seemed he was already mentally prepared for this.
“Kyouka, did Mitsuki not leave...such documents?”
This time, it’s the middle-aged man who spoke up. While it infuriated me, he’s humane enough to not specify the word “will”.
“No.”Shionji Kyouka shook her head. “But I don’t think it’s that big of an issue. Just in case, I can talk to the person involved . There shouldn’t be any need for this meeting.”
“That’ll be too late.” Someone at a table far away said, “The problem now is that nobody prepared for the Head’s will any earlier. It’s a miracle that Mitsuki-san can live till this point. Who knows when he’ll die?”
After that, nobody spoke for a long while, and everyone present looked over this side. Mari-san lowered her eyes, while Alice glared back at the dozen of relatives.
I gulped the sour saliva. Bloodline, money, and desire mixed together in a complete mess. My mind couldn’t comprehend in time. I couldn’t figure out wanted what with Alice.
However, I could be certain of something. This whole thing is stupid.
“This whole thing is stupid.”
Alice heard the voice in my heart, saying this,
“I don’t want a grain of rice, let alone the inheritance. You can fight over it until you’re all swollen. Can I go back now? I don’t want to waste my precious time on this meeting.”
Mari-san too insisted,
“No matter how dad is, I don’t want it either. Please, just let us go already.”
“Hmm〜? Aren’t you visiting your dad obediently every week to emphasize your relationship, offer some yokan?”
Somebody’s question left Mari-san seething red, and she was about to take a step forward, only to be pulled on the hem by Alice. She changed her mind, and said,
“...I’ll willingly give up my claim. All I want is for dad...”
Mari-san lowered her head, her voice being ridiculously soft.
“You may.” Shionji Kyouka coldly said, “Smart decision, nothing to dispute.”
“And I got Yuuko here because I don’t want to see this happen.”
Shionji Keiichi turned to us, and say,
“If Mitsuki-san is to die, rather than have Kyouka-san take over everything, it’s better for our side if Mari-san and Yuuko are to take the inheritance.”
“...So are you saying that if I inherit this, you can manipulate me all you want?”
“Aren’t you already under my control now?”
I felt a chill in my heart. He’s way too direct. This family is full of straight shooters, but Shionji Keiichi is the bluntest of them all.
“I can’t accept.”
Interrupting this time was the man at the same table as Shionji Kyouka. Given how she spoke, he’s probably her older brother, and it was obvious he wasn’t a Shionji, for his eyes were filled with hostility.
“Speaking of which, are these two really Mitsuki’s daughter? Even if they do consider him their father, ain’t their mother a hostess? It’s not strange if other men are involved.”
“Have them do a DNA validation.”
Shionji Kyouka coldly stated.
“If they aren’t related by blood, we can cancel their legal rights through the non-blood related clause.”
“But Yuuko and I are both dad’s daughters！”Mari-san turned pale, her voice shaking in agitation, “It doesn’t matter whether you recognize us as such. We’ll just live however we want.”
“Hmph. It’ll be a lot easier if you two give up your rights. We won’t complain too much about this.”
Shionji Kyouka’s brother noted with spite. At a seat far away, an old man’s hoarse voice came,
“No, you have to inherit.”
The Head’s younger brother, Shionji Mikitsugu, spoke up.
“Even if they’re born out of wedlock, they’re Shionjis. It’s much better than handing it over to outside relatives.”
The more things got clearer, the more I felt like vomiting, my senses almost severing.
The Head of the Shionji corporation, Shionji Mitsutoshi intended to leave all his inheritance to his nephew Mitsuki, but Mitsuki remains in a vegetative state, and nobody knew how much longer he would live. If Alice and the others gave up on the inheritance, most of the Shionji fortunes will be granted to Mitsuki’s wife Kyouka and her relatives; in other words, to parties outside the Shionjis. The term ‘external relatives’ might seem archaic, but it was probably created for such situations. The problem is that Mitsuki had two children with his mistress. If the court determines that these two have the right to inherit Mitsuki’s inheritance, that will mean half of the original fortune will be left.
Alice and Mari-san were embroiled in an ugly war between relatives, and were almost crushed.
“Great uncle Mikitsugu, you have no right to say this now. Yuuko and I will decide on this matter.”
Mari-san’s voice was so tense, she could practically snap at any given moment.
“It’s not an issue of right.”Shionji Keiichi stated coldly,”We can use more forceful means on you if needed.”
“Or what else are you going to do?” Mari-san glared at Keiichi-san, “Are you going to try to kill me, just as you did to my mother?”
The atmosphere immediately froze up. I too stared blankly at Mari-san’s face.
I could feel a sudden sharp pain on the back of my hand. Alice’s fingernails was stabbing into my flesh, her eyes too widened in shock as she stared at her older sister.
A few of us were as shocked as us, looking back and forth between Mari-san and Shionji Keiichi, muttering. It’s those ‘outer relatives’.
First to speak up was Shionji Kyouka,
“I heard that she killed herself..”
“You...！”Mari-san hollered with tears in her eyes,” You broke up my mother and I, and said something so vicious , and now…now…”
Without batting an eyelid Shionji Kyouka interrupted Mari-san’s agitated wail,
“All I did was to teach her some basic logic and etiquette.”
Then, she turned towards Shionji Keiichi,
“I don’t know what happened after that. What did you people know?”
“Nothing. It’s just Mari-san and her own imagination.”Shionji Keiichi shrugged in an exaggerated manner, “How can we possibly do something so stupid and inefficient? If she had obeyed us, there would be a lot more ─”
While Alice gritted her teeth, intending to storm forth to lash out, Sonomura-sensei put down the phone by his ear, saying,
“it appears the Head has woken up.”
The ones allowed to enter Shionji Mitsutoshi’s room, other than the doctor, were,
Shionji Kyouka,Shionji Mikitsugu, the lawyer Nakatani.
The other relatives were gathered on the corridor, waiting with bated breath. I remained by Mari-san’s side, lying on the wall, staring at the white ward door.
“This is one reason why I had Yuuko come over.”
Shionji Keiichi said as he approached us. I glared at him, and turned to Mari-san. Her lower eyelids were red and swollen. Surely she resisted the urge to cry for far to you.
“You’re meaning that the Head might be overjoyed to see his long awaited grand niece, and change the will?”
I deliberately emphasized, making sure all present could hear. I was thoroughly infuriated, but nobody was agitated, and nobody denied it. Such a bunch of disgusting people. Now I know how Shionji Mitsuki felt, why he helped Alice escape even though he had to jump from the third level.
“That’s most ideal.” Shionji Keiichi said, “But given the state of the Head, the chances are slim. It’s enough that he gets to talk to her. That means he admits to Yuuko being one of the Shionjis, and voices objecting her return to the Shionjis will be smaller.”
I couldn’t help but look back at him. So does he want the inheritance, and on top of that, bring Alice back to the Shionjis?
The relatives started chatting away again
“What will Kyouka-san do this time...”
“Is it really alright to leave it to grandfather?”
“Whose side is Nakatani-sensei on?”
“The Head wants to see that brat....grandparents dote more on their grandchildren, but that’s not his real grandchildren.”
Enough with that bloodline nonsense. You want to argue about it, go to the other end of the world, alright? That was all I felt of them, and I reproached myself. I should have brought Alice along and moved to Paris with Mari-san. Serving them croissants every day is way better than staying here.
The door suddenly opened, and Alice, first out of the room, looked on with a blank face, which shoved me. Everyone waiting at the door stopped chattering as they looked over like hungry wolves. Following Alice were Shionji Kyouka, the doctors, and the others.
“The Head fell asleep again.”
Sonomura-sensei said with a pained look
“What did the Head say?” “Did he say anything?”
“We still can’t see him?”
The relatives gathered around the doctor. Shionji Kyouka appeared to be shielding the doctor as she said forcefully, “Didn’t the doctor say that the Head’s asleep? He’s in no condition to discuss serious matters.”
“The Head...might have been stabilized. Maybe he’ll wake up soon after.”
Sonomura-sensei hid behind Shionji Kyouka, and said timidly.
That day, as we didn’t know when Shionji Mitsutoshi would awaken, everyone present stayed at the hospital. At this point, I was not surprised that nobody, not even the doctors, cared about the fate of the patient.
I was about to notify my sister that I would be home late, but my phone was snatched away from me.
“It’s a sensitive issue. It’ll be troublesome if you are to accidently spread the news.”
Shionji Keiichi said.
He brought me to a place deep in the first level, to the end room of a corridor. It was obvious that it was a place hardly anyone else. There were stacks of round tables and folded rectangular tables, with dust everywhere. The observation window on the door was really big, and there were grids on it. These were transparent grids, not translucent, and I could clearly see the inside. Also, the room could be locked from the outside, and I had a bad feeling about it.
“...This isn’t an ordinary ward, right?”
“Right. This is an isolation ward for those with severe mental illnesses, and nobody uses it now. Do relax, the basic amenities are all available.”
“Scared I’ll go outside and cause a ruckus?”
“What else, you think?”
At that moment, I really had the urge to deliver a punch. Seeing how there were other young Shionji men behind him, I decided against it.
“What about Alice?”
“Yuuko will be living in a ward room on the same level as the Head. If the Head wakes up, she’ll be there immediately.”
“You can lock me up, but let me say something to Alice first.”
I tried to ask, not hoping for anything, but I never expected Shionji Keiichi to immediately bring Alice before me.
“...What is this room...”
It’s no wonder Alice would frown upon seeing this. This room really is weird. The walls are painted brown, probably to calm the patient, but it certainly didn’t make it seem like a patient ward, and I couldn’t calm down. Also, there were no right angles in the corners of the room, round angles instead. Did they hope for the patient’s heart to be rounded, without any edge? No way?
“This is jail, I’ll telling Kei nii-sama！”Alice turned towards the corridor.
Through the observation window on the wall, I could see Shionji Keiichi leaning on the wall, waiting.
“it’s fine, I’m already prepared for this.” I said as I sat on the bed.
Alice glared at the grids on the door , only to drop her shoulders and sit next to me, looking resentful as she buried her chin in the head of her teddy bear.
“I-in that case, I’m not going to apologize to you!”
She suddenly spat loathingly, and caused me to blink.
“It’s my fault that you got involved in this mess, but don’t you think that I’ll feel guilty in the slightest！”
What kind of a tantrum is this?
“You want to apologize? Stop it, I’ll feel disgusted.”
Alice flattened the teddy body on her already flat chest.
“What do you mean? You’re saying that I don’t know basic courtesy? At least I do show my thanks when it’s needed！”
Yes, I’m referring to basic courtesy, but I don’t really care now.
“Anyway, I never thought it’s a room that can be locked from the outside. The Shionjis really love to lock people up..”
I wanted to make a joke, but I messed up. Alice hugged the teddy bear tightly, and did not say anything.
“...Ah...Sorry for getting you to remember something unpleasant.”
“It’s fine.”Alice whispered, “I did say that I don’t really care about that, because the ones really unfortunate isn’t me, but the people around me. It looks like both mom and dad had bad ends...”
“So you just...knew about your mother?”
“My eyes can see everything and anything, and I should be able to know, but I did not want to know about my mother. The debts I owe have piled up, and yet when I saw dad lying in a pool of blood, I didn’t try to save him, not even reach my hand out. I just ran. I wasn’t scared of going back, I was scared of why dad that, so I ran.”
I nodded silently. Having heard this, I still did not understand what Alice was talking about. What does she want to tell me by prying her own wound? What does she mean by debts?
“Even if grandpa dies, the debt I bear won’t disappear. All it does is that the day to settle this debt has to arrive sooner. It’s only today that I get to know this. It’s stupid, isn’t it? I thought I could have left it aside, distance myself from it, and pretend that nothing happened. Actually, I should have come along on my own will...while grandpa’s still able to talk normally.”
I recalled the blank on Alice’s face as she left Shionji Mitsutoshi’s room, and felt a little worried, so I asked.
“...What did your grandfather say to you?”
Alice lowered her eyebrows, and answered,
“Nothing. It seems like he knows who I am, just that he can’t react. That’s what the doctor said, but I’m a little suspicious. It just feels like he’s keeping his eyes open, but he’s unable to see anything. He can’t talk, let alone hold a conversation. I have lots of things to say, lots of things to clarify.”
A little hand grabbed the front paw of the bear.
“I should have negotiated with them earlier and break off all relations. I don’t want the Shionjis to interfere with my life again. I kept trying to run away, but they ended up catching me instead. It’s ironic, isn’t it?”
“Well, who wants to go back to a home where nobody knows what everyone’s thinking. How did they abuse you?”
“So I say, I wasn’t abused. I just can’t stand those people, but I don’t hate them. Dad jumped on his own will, and while mother seemed to be bullied by them, I didn’t know the actual situation, and couldn’t remember how they looked. There’s no reason for me to hate them because of her.
“Eh…you’re right, but didn’t you escape because you don’t stand it?
Alice shook head.
“I left that house because when I’m locked in that room, there’s a limit to how much knowledge I can gain. As for why I never went back, I understand now. What am I scared of? Not grandpa, and not the annoying, stupid Shionjis…”
Saying till this point, she paused, her arms holding down the chest of her light onion-colored dress.
“I’m scared of knowing myself.”
The eyes as blue as the deep sea looked up.
“Why do you think I was locked for so many years after I was born?”
I stared at Alice’s sidelong face, saying,
“Maybe it’s because, erm…your mom…and dad have that relationship that shouldn’t be made public.”
“It’s not because I’m born out of wedlock. This doesn’t work out. Isn’t nee-sama living normally as part of the Shionjis?”
I once had the same doubts too. Then, Alice dwelved deeper.
“I do have other mysteries that aren’t explained either. Nee-sama was taken back to the Shionjis after she grew up, and I was treated as part of the Shionjis after I was born.”
“What’s weird about that?”
“Basically, after my parents’ affair was revealed, they never broke up, and even had a second child, me. Also, the Shionjis invested money to have me born. Isn’t this weird/”
“Ahhh, well, yes…that is weird.”
Looking at the family meeting, I could imagine how cruelly mistresses were treated. The Shionjis disposition, along with how they treated Alice immediately after she was born; something doesn’t add up about them.
“I’ve always felt that something’s amiss. I’m not just doubting. I even deduced the truth, how everything came about. It’s just that…I don’t dare to investigate. It’s strange, isn’t it? I hate ignorance, and kept opening all the windows of the world, yet I close my eyes when it comes to myself. If I want to fight the name of Shionji, I’ll have to start by first knowing myself.”
Alice mocked herself, saying,
“And then, right when I open my eyes, grandpa’s about to take the truth into his grave.”
“Mari-san should know something, right?”
“Of course. But right now, I can’t ask nee-sama about that. Ever since then, she collapsed onto the bed, and remains sad until now.”
I recalled Mari-san’s anguished look when she shrieked.
The Shionjis killed her mother…
I didn’t know what exactly happened, but I could be certain that while her mother left quite an impression, there was a scar that wouldn’t be healed. She’s just like me; while I didn’t really feel it’s bad to talk about my mother once in a while, I continued to lament her demise.
“I should talk with nee-sama a little more. I don’t know how she carried those painful memories alone. We only met a few times, and just want to wade around in the water, having no interest in the reality next to us…without mother around, I can’t understand how nee-sama felt at all.”
“It’s normal, isn’t it? Who can really understand how others feel?”
“You do understand somewhat, don’t you? Didn’t your mother die early?”
I shrugged, and answered.
“Mari-san’s situation is completely different from mine. Mine died in a car accident, and there’s no point hating anyone. The truck driver I could have hated died in that car accident…” For a moment, I really didn’t know how to describe it, “Yes…” I responded. “I don’t understand her predicament at all.”
“But you’ll at least feel sad for her, right?”
Having asked that, Alice lowered her eyes.
“Sorry for asking you such a rude question. I really don’t know how it feels.”
I had a thought, and said,
“It’s really sad…it feels like something’s different. Well, it’s like removing the stopper of a bathtub, lots of things just flowing away, and finally nothing remains. My sister said that I never shed a single tear, but I had no impression of it.”
“I see…so that’s it.”
Alice pressed her hand on the chest of her light onion colored dress, looking down as she stared at it. Is she seeing if there’s a hole in her heart?
“If I too lose someone important, I don’t know how I’ll react. I can’t imagine at all.”
“…Eh, Alice, you’re, well, your father…”
A bloody imagery on the floor kept appearing in my mind, and I swallowed what I was about to say. He managed to remain alive, but he remained unconscious for eight years, and was no different from being dead. Alice even witnessed it. She felt more shocked than I did, right?
“I told you I don’t know.”
“Dad and I meet once a month at most, and even after coming to my room, he won’t say a few words, just watching me writing programming scripts in surprise. I didn’t know what kind of person he is, just that he’ll often give me books. I do like Tipken’s works because he gave me her entire collection.”
Her words contained some warmth.
“But that’s all he did, send books. He never talked about what I felt after reading them, what I wanted to read. I guess he didn’t know how to talk to me. I’m in a particularly unique situation, and part of it was caused by him.”
Alice said, her fingertips sliding down the hem of her dress as she seemed to be reminiscing the past.
“When dad carried me and jumped from the third floor, I was shocked, and I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know why dad was willing to sacrifice this much for me, so I did as he told me to. I left him behind, and ran.”
Why, you ask? Because he’s your dad. He loves you..
But I couldn’t say anything. I’m not the detective. I had neither right nor ability to speak for the dead.
Alice flattened her dress, and muttered,
“Nee-sama might hate me.”
“She loves dad. After hearing how she visits dad every week, I probably thought that it was I who caused dad to end up that way.”
I couldn’t help but sigh. I remembered Mari-san saying that too, that her little sister would have hated her. These two sisters really are so similar in this aspect.
“That’s not your─”
I felt that I shouldn’t have said so, and kept quiet.
That’s her starting point. This NEET detective once talked about how much misfortune there was on this world, and that she had no ability to stop it, Such a noble ideal imprisoned Alice in that icy room, and she kept chewing over her futility, becoming an omnipotent seeker. Since she couldn’t break away from the pain, she would at least light a lamp in the darkness of ignorance, and watch until the very end.
“It’s my fault.” She muttered, “If I’m omnipotent, dad wouldn’t have ended up this way. It’s my fault.”
“Is it just an issue of possibility?”
“Yes. I did mention this to you before.”
“But aren’t you lying?”
Alice widened her eyes as she stared at me.
“...What did I lie to you about?”
“You said you’re not a Saint, and that you never really wanted to save others, right?”
“Never thought that you’ll remember about that, but so?”
“But you’re lying to me. You really want to save others, right?”
Some speckles of light flickered in Alice’s eyes, almost shattering.
“...Wh-what are you saying?”
“Actually, you wanted to save your father, and even the mother you never met.”
Alice got increasingly red as she listened, her neck shivering as she listened to me.
“What, you think you know me well!?”
“I knew that.”
I ooked back at Alice’s eyes that were about to flood,
“I’ve been beside you for a year and a half. I don’t understand you at all. I fail as an assistant if I don’t understand that, I think.”
My words caused Alice to life her legs up, push the doll onto the bed, bury her face into it, and roll about on the bedsheet.
She’s always manipulating words, running through the labyrinth of logic face, and breaking through the obstacles, terrified of being lost. Thinking about it, it’s simple. If she’s scared of ignorance, she could be a scholar, adventurer, or news reporter. Why be a detective?
Because she wanted to save those on the brink of despair. It’s just that simple
“What are you being gleeful for!” Alice yelled, her face flushed. Her long black hair standing up in a mess. “You think of yourself as a companion? And what do you mean? Why am I the one talking? Didn’t you call me here for some reason?”
I was flabbergasted.
“Didn’t you get Kei nii-sama to call me here? Isnn’t it because you want me to help you contact your family!?”
“Nope. I just thought I should see if you’re alright. I thought you’ll be scared to be alone.”
Alice’s face went beetroot. Is there a need to be this angry?
“Wh-who’s scared!? The room they gave me is a lot better than yours. There’s a large hotel like suite room. The only problem is that nee-sama’s living with me.”
“I see, then, good. Sorry, I might be scared myself.”
Alice shoved Lilicu into my face.
“Then think of her as me and try to endure this loneliness！You might be locked here for a long time！”
Alice hopped off the bed, and hurried to the door, showing at Shionji Keiichi through the grid window.
“Kei nii-sama, I’m done！Let me out right now！”
After she left, her fuming voice echoed on the corridor.
“How long are you going to keep us locked here!?”
“I haven’t gotten everything confirmed─”
The door closed, shutting off Shionji Keiichi’s words.
I laid down on the bed. The doll on my chest still had some lingering warmth from Alice.
Even when night came, I couldn’t sleep. Nobody brought food to me. Luckily, I wasn’t hungry, so it wasn’t a problem. I spent the rest of the time lying on the bed, killing time by starting at the pitch dark ceiling.
It’s eerily quiet here. It’s a hospital, but’s it’s way too ridiculous to think that there was no sound to be heard once night beckoned. After thinking for a moment, I guess it’s because this building was for the Shionjis use, and there were only two patients, Mitsutoshi and Mitsuki. Nobody saw any medical staff, because only a few were needed to watch over them.
Sonomura-sensei said that Alice’s great uncle. Shionji Mitsutoshi might not live past tomorrow. Once he does, there’s one less reason for Alice to be here. Can she and I regain our freedom? But they did just confine a child for several years after she’s born. They couldn’t possibly let me go that easily.
This sudden imagination had me shivering.
Are they intending to…kill me to shut me up?
I recalled the dark, scorched eyes beneath Shionji Keiichi’s glasses. Maybe he might do such a thing without batting an eyelid.
No no no, calm down first. I’ve been a detective assistant for a year and a half, and learned a lot from the dark side of society. One thing I learned is that erasing a person’s existence completely is impossible. Killing someone to hide a secret will create a larger secret that’s difficult to hide. Also, it’s impossible to erase all the tracks that have been left behind.
Kill me just to hide a family secret? Impossible...right?
I started to think that it was stupid of me to try and console myself, so I flipped around. I felt that my head was numb and hot. I took in too much information today, overloaded. I felt tired, and the information and memories that are not so important will seep out from my eyes. All I remembered were the words Alice and Mari-san said to me.
Their mom’s dead, and their dad’s a living corpse.
Given this definition alone, the Shionji sisters might be similar to me in predicament. The pain they thoroughly felt is something I can never experience fully.
I don’t know, and I can’t imagine. Who can understand the thoughts of others anyway?
While being alone in my room, I reflected upon my conversation with Alice, and put myself in her shoes.
Why couldn’t I empathize?
Because my mother died in a car accident? There wasn’t any malice, just dumb luck involved in her death. It’s nothing compared to the madness of love and hatred involved with Shionji Mitsuki and his mistress.
N-no, that’s not it. So I answered myself.
Basically put, I just couldn’t accept my mother’s death. The way dad escaped was way too pitiful, and I didn’t realize that I too was running away from reality. After mother died, my father and I never conversed. Is it just his problem? Maybe, just as he had ignored my existence, I too had deemed him a ghost.
Ahh, in this sense, I think I understand how Alice feels.
Realizing myself is something really terrifying. Knowing that is the same as death
I tried to force myself to sleep for a moment, only to hear something heavy behind dragged over, followed by some fleeting footsteps. I sat up, saw the other side of the grid glass, and found someone standing under the dim blueish white light.
“...Narumi-kun, you awake?”
It’s the voice of a woman. I got off the bed, and went towards the door. A silhouette wearing white robes, with black hair covering the shoulders, was at the observation window, the night lights in the backdrop.
“Mari-san? What is it?”
“I heard nobody brought food for you ...so I got you some.”
“Ah, sorry. Thanks.”
I tried searching for the lights on the wall, but I couldn’t. I fumbled with the door handle, but it was locked.
“Looks like I can’t switch on the lights here.” I sighed, “Is it possible to open the door there?”
“Looks like it can only be opened with a card.”
Mari-san opened what seemed like a newspaper hole at the bottom of the door, and slid in a tray of food. While thinking that I was really in prison, I accepted it.
“Sorry for putting you through this.”
She said behind the thick door.
“Well, it’s not something you should apologize for.”
Unlike Alice, Mari-san does actually apologize. I suddenly had a stupid thought.
“I’ll try to get you back home as soon as possible, and I’ll figure out a way so that they won’t cause you trouble.”
“Sounds good. How about your side? They’re threatening you...”
She lowered her head, her expression merging into the darkness,
“I don’t think anything will happen. I’m a public figure, so they won’t probably do anything. I’ll just have to endure some troubles and do as I’m told.”
“Well, I guess, sorta.”
Speaking of which, she didn’t have to resist. If her family wants her to inherit it, she could have. The outer relatives might go to court over this, but the ones telling her to inheritor should deal with this. Once news of the inheritance crisis appear on the tabloids, the Marie Shion might be damaged, but minimally.
“But Yuuko might not simply obliged. She might be taken away.
“Just to ask.” I coughed twice, and continued, “What I say next might add on to your burden, so I apologize. If Alice gives up on the inheritance, her share will belong to you, right? This is pointless to the Shionjis? They just don’t want the inheritance to be taken fully by that wife. Alice says that she doesn’t mind, but I think the Shionjis are pretty twisted. I really hope that they’ll stop harassing her.”
I could hear Mari-san giggling behind the grid.
“Narumi-kun, you see...” her words trailed off in the white mist, “it does seem…you’re really worried about Yuuko,”
She sounded really helpless, and it shook me.
“But that’s pretty unlikely. Yuuko might be taken back to the Shionjis.”
W-why do you say that?”
“Keiichi-san doesn’t want the inheritance. Yuuko’s the disciple groomed by him, and he probably wants her to remain by his side.”
I recalled Shionji Keiichi luring me over to that office building in Shinjuku, and that we had that conversation in the building. I could tell that he had a special obsession with Alice, and Alice’s terrified of him. No, not scared of him, more like revered. I could still remember her face when the detective agency system was hacked, and she saw that man’s filled filling all the monitors.
“But he has no right to take other people back. Alice can earn money on her own, and maintain her own living.”
The black hair fluttered in the darkness. Mari-san turned her eyes away, sounding skeptical as she moved away.
“You’re not, erm...you don’t want to leave Yuuko...right?”
“Eh, it’s not my call, right?”
“Then what is it about?”
I gulped. Seriously, I didn’t know why’s she asking me this. That’s an issue between you sisters. What does that have to do with me?
Under the dim looks, I could see her eyebrows sparkling.
“Well, I don’t want to leave her. We’ve been detective and assistant for so long. Seriously...I─”
For a moment, I was speechless. I really didn’t know how to describe this. I couldn’t find any suitable words to express how important Alice was to me.
“─Sorry, I can’t really put it well. Anyway, she’s an important partner to me.”
I could feel some tears in her voice,
“I think Yuuko too─”
“Yuuko will surely…”
The words slowly tailed off in the darkness.
I blinked a few times, and stared at her face hidden in the darkness. Something’s not right. Did she discuss something with Alice beforehand?
Right when I was about to question further, a shrill alarm rang above us, along with loud footsteps, sounds of metal crashing, and people shouting,
“─Got it, I’l be there─” “Move faster！”
She and I looked up at the ceiling in unison. It’s late. Did something happen?
“I’ll go upstairs to have a look.”
She immediately turned around, the flowing black hair covered my eyes. The silhouette on the grid window grills got smaller, and soon, she vanished.
Once again, I looked towards the ceiling. I knew it was pointless, but I tried budging the door several times before I gave up and returned to the bed.
The doctor said that the Head Mitsutoshi would live to either today or tomorrow. So that moment’s finally here? What’s written on the will exactly? If the inheritance is to be handed over to Mikitsugu, Alice and Mari-san will be able to live peaceful lives. While the wife’s family might be infuritated by this, but that has nothing to do with us…
I did hear angry, seething roars, and my back jolted from the bed.
“—You guys did this, right?” “What are you trying to imply—?”
“Please calm down. This place is—” “Utterly preposterous. Doing this—”
What are they arguing about? In the darkness, I pricked my ears.
“—Just gone, and you people are—”
“You’re kidding me!” “Enough with the jokes.”
I hopped off the bed. What happened? Did the wife’s family charge over to the Head’s room?
It’s impossible for me to return to sleep, so I paced around before the bed. There’s a likely reason tht they’re arguing because of Alice, and I didn’t know if she’ll be fine…I was really frustrated that I was unable to exit the room, and I started to see if the observation window could be open, trying to reach my hand through the opening where Mari-san delivered the tray of food, but it was a waste of time.
Soon after, I rid myself of that notion, and laid back onto the bed, pressing the teddy bear onto my tummy as I spaced out and looked at the clock to kill the time.
An hour later, Shionji Keiichi came over,
“You never left this place, right?”
He asked from the observation window. I got up from the bed, and put up a front as I sighed,
“How can I possibly get out here? Didn’t you lock the door? Anyway, I don’t know what they’re arguing about—”
“Did Mari-san come by?”
“Please answer my question. A nurse said that an hour ago, she met Mari-san on the corridor, and asked what she was doing. She said she brought something for you to eat. Is this true? Did she come here?”
Just ask already. Do you need to look so restless? I thought as I nodded way.
“Mari-san did come by to deliver some food. We chatted a bit, and then there was noise upstairs. Mari-san said she’s going upstairs to have a look, and left.”
I had a look at the watch. I had nothing to do, and kept looking at the watch out of boredom, so I remembered the time really well.”
“Yeah…why are you so particular about this time? What happened upstairs?”
“What was the commotion like?”
“Many came by yelling—ah, some seemed to be quarrelling.”
“Got it. What you said matches the situation when we discovered this matter.”
Shionji Keiichi folded his arms beyond the window. It was dark, and I couldn’t see very well, but he’s definitely not looking pleased.
“This means that Mari-san and Yuuko weren’t together when he was found.’”
“Huh? Erm, yeah, that’s right. She’s here. Anyway, what do you mean ‘discovered’? Mind telling me what’s going on?”
I didn’t get an answer, and instead, I heard something sharp and heavy rubbing. I gulped, and ran to the window to have a look, seeing that Shionji Keiichi was pushing the long tables piled on the floor to the wall. So that’s meant to block the door to prevent me from getting out even when the door’s unlocked? Doesn’t matter, just open up. I hastily turned the doorknob.
The door opened, and Shionji Keiichi reached a hand out to grab my wrist.
“Please come along.”
He brought me to a certain car parked neatly in the parking lot, and shoved me into the co-driver seat without saying a word.
Shionji Keiichi sat in the driver seat, buckled up silently, and started the engine.
“W-wait a moment. Where are we going?”
He tossed something onto my thighs. It’s a cellphone, my cellphone that was taken from me before I was locked inside the ward room.
“For you. Buckle up.”
“Wait, what about Alice?”
Shionji Keiichi said nothing as he stepped on the pedal and drove off. The sudden acceleration caused me to shrivel on the co-driver seat, and the bear plushie I brought along rolled at my feet.
The car exited Harumi-dori, passed several car lights on the relatively empty road, and accelerated. The building lights in the night quickly vanished, and I again turned to the back, finding that the hospital was no longer to be seen.
I swallowed my grumbles back, and buckled in frustration as I glared at the reflection of Shionji Keiichi’s face on the windshield, asking,
“Please do explain what is going on.”
But even so, there was no answer. We entered Uchibori-dori, and the darkness around the royal residence appeared to our right, causing the silence to feel much heavier.
“—Personally, I do like you.”
Once we arrived at a red light, Shionji Keiichi muttered, and I looked to his sidelong face with scepticism.
“So please think of this as goodwill on my part. If you wish for a stable life, it’s better to go home without knowing anything, and never get involved with anyone called Shionji again.”
“…Are you kidding me?”
“I’m dead serious. Knowing the truth is the same as death.”
The red light turned green, and the car drove off again. The car was filled with the engine noise and a strange silence isolated from the outside world.
Knowing the truth is the same as death. Is it this person too who first told Alice these words?
But either way,
“A stable life’s no different from crap.”
I spat out at the dashboard.
“Just tell me what’s going on. What happened to Alice?”
Shionji Keiichi sighed, either out of reluctance, or this pitiful me.
The car stopped at the next traffic light, and he spoke with a stiff voice,
“Shionji Mitsuki is dead.”
I stared at his sidelong face.
“…Is there such a need for this ruckus? Isn’t everyone mentally prepared for this? The doctor did say that he might die today and tomorrow—”
I swallowed my words, jogged my memory, and repeated that name,
“Not the Head…but Alice’s father?”
“Yes. The Head Mitsutoshi is still alive. Do you know what that means?”
I remained the frail body lying on the hospital bed. Alice’s father died before the old Head, and the significance of it slowly seeped into my mind.
“…So that means the designated inheritance is lost.”
“That’s how it is. If the will is really as Nakatani-sensei hinted, the will is invalid, and all the inheritance of the Shionjis will be taken over by my grandfather, Shionji Mikitsugu.”
Before I knew it, the car accelerated, and I did not realize when the traffic lights changed to green. I gulped, and asked,
“So…his wife, and the in-laws will be really troubled. That’s why they’re causing a ruckus.”
“If that’s just the case, I wouldn’t have taken you away.”
I frowned, and looked towards where he was looking. The night and lights of the stars were shown outside the windshield, phasing towards the back in an irregular manner. My body temperature trickled along with them, and I was feeling terribly chilly.
“Mitsuki-san’s artificial ventilation was removed.”
Those words too took my breath away.
“—He was murdered.”
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