Kamisama no Memochou:Volume 9 Chapter 5

From Baka-Tsuki
Jump to: navigation, search

Chapter 5[edit]

There was a new ten-storey building at the intersection between Bunkyo-ku and Toshima-ku building. The main entrance was facing the main road, and it had an avant-garde design, as though the corners of a rectangle was chiseled off. The glass walls were reflecting the Spring sun, and there was a ‘welcome to lease’ display board at the door. My hand was covering my forehead to block the sun as I looked up at the building.

“I found where Alice is.”

During the operation meeting at the Hirasaka-gumi agency, Major announced this,

“I’ve analyzed the video you sent me. There’s the train horn at a station in the background, so it was easy for me to figure it out.”

It was easy, I was impressed that he could say it without any further thought.

“So we scanned the possible areas Major marked, and found this new building to be registered under the Shionji Corporation.” Tetsu-senpai continued, “It’s pretty new. Shouldn’t be wrong.”

In other words, while I was wasting time being dejected, they already figured out Alice’s position. It’s the same every time, but I really realized how tunnel-visioned I am.

I took the initiative to ask those around me to investigate, and that’s to mitigate my flaws.

I spent ten minutes circling the building once, observing the windows on every level, the entrances to each level, the basement parking. Following that’s the real troublesome part. I need to figure out if Alice’s really there, which level and which room she’s in, and begin planning from there.

I can’t be anxious. I’m just investigating this time to create a good cover to enter the building. I approached the main door, taking photos of the railings of the various floors. Any company here is valuable information I can use. Most of the floors were empty, and there’s a lot of space. Maybe it’s really an appropriate place to imprison a girl here ──

“You’re here. That’s fast.”

Those words caused me to jolt in shock.

Looking back, I found a man in white robes entering through the automatic doors. It was Shionji Keiichi.

“Ahh, yeah …”

I never thought I would meet him at this point. I was not prepared in the slightest, and could only stumble back gaudily.

Since this person’s here, does this mean Alice is really in this building? What should I do? Major and Tetsu-senpai spent effort finding this place for me, and my actions were revealed so easily. Now they’re surely going to move Alice away. While this thought kept beating at the back of my head, Shionji Keiichi tilted his head, saying,

“Ah, Yuuko isn’t here.”

I gulped, looking back at his face.

“You guys figured out the station and the vehicle sounds in the background of the video, and found your way here. Am I right?”

“…Eh…yeah…”

“I heard that you people have such expertise at least, so I wanted to try it out, and added some misdirecting audio into the video. It’s really not easy that you figured out the right answer within two days.”

I was dumbfounded, unable to say anything.

He mixed fake sound signals into the video? To test our capabilities …?

“But did Yuuko not tell you to leave her?”

I clenched my fists, and could hear my joints rubbing, my nails sinking into my flesh. Calm down, now’s not the time to panic. We got baited into the palm of his hand. Reflect on this later.

“What do you want to do with Alice?”

I questioned, trying my best to hush my trembling voice.

“Now why would I tell you?”

“Don't forget, I know what happened that night at the hospital. You sure you aren't scared of me revealing things to the media?”

Shionji Keiichi gave a small sigh,

“Come in. We can’t talk about this at the entrance.”

I followed him through the door. There was no one at the service desk and the elevator. There was no one at the service desk or the elevator reception, and there was the stinging stench of finished construction in the building. He brought me to a little corner at the first level, isolated by a partition, with several sofas there.

“Before we begin, I have a request.”

Shionji Keiichi sat on the sofa, raising a leg as he said.

“…What request?”

“Please switch off the recorder inside your pocket.”

I couldn’t hide the surprise on my face, and tapped my hand at the lump on chest pocket of my short coat .

“Don’t think too much into this. I don’t have the abnormally sharp senses of yours. You’re here to investigate, so recording is a must.”

I bit my lips hard, and reached into my pocket, taking out the recorder pen the size of my palm.

“And your cellphone.” Shionji Keiichi added, so I placed the phone next to the recorder.

This guy’s so vexingly annoying. As a detective’s assistant, I’ve encountered various cases, and faced off against various types of people, but this Shionji Keiichi is undoubtedly the one that really annoyed me most. He knew our tricks so thoroughly, and has been toying us. Most terrifyingly, he’s not really antagonistic against us.

We need to snatch Alice from this man, but our first move was scoffed aside by him, completely shattered apart.

Once he saw that the recorder and phone were switched off, Shionji Keiichi said,

“First, you have no proof of what happened that night.”

I neither agreed nor disagreed, so I listened to him quietly.

“To elaborate, we have the means to shush things.”

Of course, I knew that the Shionjis’ fortunes and influence could shut the police and media up.

“But that will require a hefty price. In this sense, your threat is a decent negotiating tactic. I shall give you some painless news.”

Why’s he praising me right now? Talking with this guy feels like I have a vacuum cleaner on my ears, sucking my soul out.

“You ask me what am I planning to do with Yuuko?” Shionji Keiichi raised his other leg, “Nothing. To be precise, I just want to observe her, marveled by her.”

I sighed. It’s really ridiculous. Explaining quantum mechanics to centipedes or scorpions might be more constructive than this.

“Yuuko’s a special human, and her existence is some sort of miracle. Do you understand?”

“No, I don’t understand at all.”

I played dumb, but Shionji Keiichi ignored me as he continued,

“I’ve never met such a dazzling intellect with a desire to learn. My instincts tell me that she can devour the world, so I gave her the computer. You may think that I’m her mentor, but the truth is that she’s self-taught, and I merely pulled aside the curtain to show her how vast the world is.”

I remained silent as I stared at the robotic eyes behind the glasses. What are you getting at?

“Over the past years, I’ve been discreetly watching her grow. I can tell from trying to hack into her computer. However, I do hope to remain by her side and observe how she codes or configures. That will impress me all the more.”

I could feel a strange, indescribable feeling from this man called Shionji Keiichi; the negative words ‘intimidating’, ‘outrageous’ clearly unable to describe him. I don’t feel disgusted at him, just captivated like he’s some deep sea creature.

However, now’s not the time to marvel over this. I have to figure out where Alice is, and nothing else matters now. Having finally found an opening to interrupt, I said,

“So Alice is under your supervision?”

“Of course.”

“Please let her go.”

Shionji Keiichi tilted his head slightly, saying,

“Your request is completely different from the demand you had made. A good point about you is that you know no shame, but you do need to be aware of your own limits.”

What’s with this guy? He’s driving me nuts. Why’s he praising me and scolding me like a parent?

“Also, I am not confining Yuuko.”

I glared at his eyes, trying my best not to miss out on anything he had just said.

“I’m simply hiding her. Of course, the room is locked, but that is to prevent outsiders from entering. The Head managed to remain alive, miraculously, but it’s only a matter of time until he dies. When that happens, Yuuko’s predicament will be very precarious. My grandfather hopes that Yuuko will remain silent forever, and I don’t know what he will do.”

“Your grandfather?”

I couldn’t understand. His grandfather, the brother of the Head, Shionji Mikitsugu should logically be the next in line for the inheritance, right?

“What else does he want with Alice? Legally speaking, doesn’t the inheritance go to him?”

Shionji Keiichi pursed his lips, and remained quiet for a really long time. He’s probably wondering how much he could reveal. While I was starting to feel nervous, he finally spoke up.

“That night, when Mitsuki-san breathed his last, there was a document by his beside. My grandfather was the first there, and dealt with it immediately, but the culprit definitely saw it.”

“What’s that document?”

“Better not know, and you don’t want to be dealt with by him after knowing, right? Yuuko knew of this unspeakable matter.”

“Dealt…what do you mean? What’s the situation now?”

Shionji Keiichi lowered his eyes, and muttered, as though to himself,

“You still know nothing of the Shionjis’ madness, but that’s for the best.”

Shionjis’ madness? Is there something more to the inheritance issue I don’t know of?

No, it’s pointless to think about this. This guy will never say anything as long as he made up his mind. The most important thing is to fish out about Alice’s situation

“You’re saying you’re protecting Alice, so that she won’t be harmed by your grandfather, but that’s no different from confining her, right?”

“I gave Yuuko communication channels and an open environment, exactly the same as when she’s at the detective agency. If she’s willing, she can break through the traps I set up to contact you, reveal her location, and even unlock herself to get out.”

I pursed my lips.

For she was unwilling to return, and did not, instead staying in confinement on her own will.

Aren’t your hacking skills better than Alice’s? I’m guessing that she can’t hack her way out, right? It’s pointless to question this however. There’s a lot of things I wanted to ask.

“…How’s Mari-san now? I couldn’t contact her since that day. Did you do anything to her too?”

“Mari-san’s been in the hospital the entire time, watching the Head. The Head really dotes on her, just like Yuuko.”

She’s been in the hospital till this point?

“So she’s basically locked in the hospital?”

Shionji Keiichi continued.

“It’s not wrong of you to say it. Layman terms, she’s hospitalized due to overexertion. Unlike Yuuko, she’s a public figure busy with work.”

In other words, is Alice willingly imprisoned because her sister’s in your hands? So I thought, but I couldn’t speak up.

“…With your you’re hiding things, how are you going to resolve the issue of Alice’s father’s death?”

“This isn’t something you can ask about.”

So this is taboo after all, since it involves something illegal, a potency I could threaten with. However, it’s not hard to guess, since they’ll likely dismiss it as medical negligence.

Let’s try rattling him again. So I thought.

“It’s not Alice who killed him.”

And Shionji Keiichi’s face remained unmoved,

“And so?”

There was no mockery in his tone. He was really doubting, so what if Alice wasn’t the killer?

“Even if it’s not Yuuko who killed him, it doesn’t matter to me. As long as she remains by my side, no matter whether it’s a lie or a delusion, it doesn’t matter to me.”

I shut up, and got up. It seemed I had nothing to say to him. Once I reached the door, Shionji Keiichi called me from behind.

“What is it?” I stopped in my tracks, and turned around.

“What does Yuuko normally eat?”

“…Huh?”

I blurted out, suddenly stupefied by this sudden, strange question.

“Based on my investigations, I gave her Dr. Pepper and ramen without noodles and meat, even having the taste mimick that of the ramen shop called ’Hanamaru’, but she wouldn’t take a bite.”

I blinked my eyes, and answered,

“…Eh, because she has a small appetite to begin with.”

“it’s the third day. She hasn’t taken a sip.”

Not even Dr. Pepper? That’s weird.

“She’s really weak right now. She already has weak constitution to begin with, so…”

I gasped, and closed in on Shionji Keiichi, yelling,

“What are the doctors doing!?”

“She refused the drip. Do you intend for me to bind her in a straitjacket?”

“Th-that’s not it. But, what’s this? She’s not drinking?”

“Maybe this is the ‘redemption’ she speaks of. She did mention this to you in the video she sent you, right?”

Slow, suicide?

Before I realized it, I found my hand grabbing onto the collar of Shionji Keiichi’s white robe.

“Return Alice to me right now!”

He narrowed his eyes beneath the glasses, giving a look of pity.

“Don’t make me repeat myself too many times. You are in no position to ask for anything.”

“So it doesn’t matter to you if Alice dies!?”

“Of course not.”

“…You──”

Shionji Keiichi flung aside my wrist, saying,

“If she does choose that, that will be part of Yuuko’s beautiful life.”

I was speechless, so much so that the anger dissipated and dispersed.

“And even if I do let her go, she might not change her mind. I shall watch her wilt away until her final moments.”

He’s mad, his mind isn’t sane. In a sense, he’s the same as Alice. I shoved Shionji Keiichi back onto the sofa, and ran right for the door, the boiling brain juices seemingly oozing out of my ears.

*

That night, we began a meeting outside the back door of 'Ramen Hanamaru', but Major was dejected right from the beginning, muttering away, and was of no help at all.

“Got duped by a fake voice…”

Eavesdropping and sound analysis are the two key specialties of Major, so much so that he considered himself a sonar operation of the JSDF. He seemed really shaken that he's been had.

However, now's not the time to bother with him. Tetsu-senpai, Hiro and I continue to scowl and glare at the wooden table, discussing how we should get Alice back.

“Anyway, we don't have much time. We can only force our way through or threaten.”

Senpai muttered, and I agreed. We can't think of falling back at this point.

“From what you say, it is that Keiichi who's imprisoning Alice himself, right?”

Hiro kept tapping his fingertips on his knees, looking jittery.

“Probably. He said that he didn't want anyone else in the family to find Alice.”

Hearing my answer,senpai folded his arms, and groaned,

“Looking at this, there are other possible locations …but he’s the boss of his own IT company. Who knows how many buildings he has.”

“I think Shionji Keiichi’s a pervert who’s a little too obsessed with Alice? Since he wants to observe up close, he’s definitely not too far away from her.” Hiro noted.

“You’re right. Maybe he’s not being being discreet, and locking Alice in his house or office. Let’s start from the real estate companies.”

Senpai stood up, kicking a devastated Major on the leg, saying,

“How long are you going to keep sleeping? Aren’t you going to spy and eavesdrop on the target? He might return to Alice for a moment, you know.”

“Yes!”

Major’s eyes regained life, the goggles jumping up.

“Spying and eavesdropping’s my mission! See enemy, kill enemy! See enemy, kill enemy!” “Enough killing, let’s go.”

Both of them left the alley between the buildings, one following the other. Hiro waved with a smile, and once their footsteps vanished, he looked gloomy again.

“We need to threaten him until he's forced to compromise.”

I muttered.

The man Shionji Keiichi has a twisted sense of values, but his thought process is still logical, and he knows how to weigh pros and cons. In other words, threats are effective. If I have enough blackmail material to threaten him with, he might let Alice go.

“Luckily, or maybe not, but in any case, Alice's family has lots of unspeakable things, so maybe we can get something from digging there.”

“You’re right. I think Yondaime mentioned that he did investigate that hospital, so I asked him to continue looking there.”

“I’ll start looking for Alice’s mother then. Since she’s a hostess at Ginza, I probably can find a few leads, though it’s been more than twenty years …”

Hiro too stood up, leaving the alley. Soon after, the exhaust pipe of the car departed, and I was the only one left behind. I saw the messages everyone ssent, and was flabbergasted, wondering if we had enough time. Will this matter end even if we do save Alice? Shionji Keiichi said that even if he let her go, it doesn’t mean that Alice will change her mind──

I buried my hands into my palms.

Why’s she seeking death? Is she an idiot? What does she mean, stepping beyond the boundary of a detective? So what? There’s nothing more important than living on, right?

This thought repeated itself emptily in my mind, mocking me,

Till this point, I found many who found things more important than their own lives. There’s nothing wrong with that, and nothing fortunate or unfortunate with that. It just means that humans have evolved way too fast, and that they think too much.

Alice made up her mind, so this is my problem. I hope for Alice to live on, to show emotions next to me, and to treat me as an idiot.

“…Fujishima-kun?”

The back door opened, and Ayaka poked her head out, wearing a black apron. So it’s dinner business time?

“Want some food?”

Ayaka served me a plate of four onigiris. I shook my head.

“Sorry, I’m not too hungry.”

“I see.”

Ayaka sat on the stack of old tires opposite me, eating away, and glancing up at me from time to time. After swallowing the third, she made up her mind, and asked,

“…Is there anything I can do?”

For a moment, I didn't know how to answer.

To be honest, no. Even I couldn’t really help at all here. If I had the skills or connections like the senior detective gang trio or Yondaime, I could have thought of something. However, Ayaka and I are just high school students.

However, I felt that trying to coax her or brush her off will only hurt her more.

“Not at the moment.”

I tried to watch my tone, trying to ensure that I wasn’t being aloof to Ayaka, but I messed up. She’s really a nice person, smiling and nodding, and I felt really guilty.

“Once Alice returns──”

Saying this, I held my breath. It’s really hard to image…what will happen in the future.

“There’ll be a lot of things we need you to help with. I heard that she’s not eating or drinking now. Force her to eat something once she comes back…”

“…Hm, yeah. And she probably hasn’t been taking care of her hair.”

“Right, guess so. I wonder if she has showered.”

I was no longer feeling as tense, for I could joke that much somehow. Ayaka probably heard the details about Alice’s predicament from Hiro, but she stood strong, and she remained strong.

Thinking about it, I started to have some appetite.

“I think I’ll have one. Can I?”

Smiling, Ayaka brought the face before me.

I kept gnawing away at the rice, thinking about Alice. Where exactly is her ‘home’? The Shionjis filled with years of bloodshed, or the hospital that was clean but dead, or this ramen shop we’re at?

*

The next morning, I went to the Hirasaka-gumi office. Yondaime sent me a message, notifying me that he found some new intel from the hospital.

“Good work!” “Good work, aniki!”

I passed through the metal door, and a group of guys in black T-shirts bowed properly towards me. I went into the storeroom, and saw Yondaime seated oin the dark room, the light of the laptop reflected on his face.

“You say you can’t send this through mail, so it’s something really big, right?”I sat on the bed, and asked.

“That’s not all.” Yondaime curled his lips, “Isn’t Shionji Keiichi Alice’s master? It won’t be difficult for him to read through our mails. You don’t want him to know what cards we have, right?”

“O-oh yeah…I guess so.”

“I gave Tetsu and the others a call.”

“Sorry about everything …”

Wake up already, so I chided myself. How did I not notice that? Me not having the expertise nor the brains is basically deadweight at this point.

“I went to threaten the doctors at that hospital, and found something really interesting. Alice’s father, Shionji Mitsuki, was born there too.”

“…Oh, so—what’s interesting about that?”

“It’s a big hospital now, but back then, it was just some broken down clinic. No way would the Shionjis leave their little princess to this place.”


Right, the hospital had such big facilities invested heavily in that place before Alice was born.

“It looks like the owner of the clince was a shadyacquaintance of Shionji Mitsutoshi during his younger days, a yakuza doctor who deals with dirty work.”

“Eh, so that means Shionji Mitsuki’s parentage isn’t something the outsiders could know of, right?”

Yondaime nodded.

“When he was Mitsuki’s mother──Shionji Terumi, didn’t seem to be born then.”

“…That’s quite an issue for a lady born to a prestigious family.”

“And also, nobody knows who Mitsuki’s father is.”

For a moment, I couldn’t grasp the main point, and blinked in surprise. Yondaime hushed his voice, and continued,

“Listen up, what follows is just a hunch of mine. For a child whose father remains unknown, don’t you think Shionji Mitsuki was treated really well?”

“…Now that you mention it…that is true.”

The Head had deemed him the heir, took him in as a godson, and paved the road for him to take the entire inheritance. It was truly abnormal for the Shionjis, who really valued blood relations.

This got me thinking of a certain possibility. Blood relations…?

And I shivered at that notion. No way?

Yondaime seemed to have noticed my stiffened face, as he then continued calmly,

“It's just my guess, but I believe Shionji Mitsutoshi is his father.”

“In other words…sibling incest.”

I looked back at the poised glint in Yondaime’s eyes, and froze. No way, that thought was immediately replaced by the idea that no, everything is possible. I recalled everything I had investigated, the strange atmosphere I sensed from the Shionjis at the hospital, and I was thus further convinced.

The distillation of the Shionj’s rich family bloodline.

The illegitimate child born between the siblings── Shionji Mitsuki.

The Head Mitsutoshi deemed Mitsuki as his own son, and loved him dearly, so much that he left the entire inheritance for the latter. If they were already father and son to begin with, then everything Mitsutoshi did made sense.

“But…there's no proof to that, right?”

“Using it to threaten them should be enough. Every little bit of intel we get should be enough progress. If my guess is correct, the main parties involved aren’t the only ones who know this secret.”

“I guess…so.”

After a vague answer, I got my brain moving, and was thoroughly rattled by a possibility I had thought of. If Shionji Mitsuki really is the Head Mitsutoshi’s own son, what will the aftereffects be?

Yondaime continued calmly,

“Once this matter is revealed, the first issue will be the inheritance. Currently, Mitsuki is Mitsutoshi的“nephew”, and the inheritance won’t be transferred over to his daughters because of his death. If he’s the ‘son’ however, things will be much different.”

“I see, so that means Alice and Mari-san can inherit, right?”

“It’s not about whether they can take the inheritance. The inheritance the Head’s brother hope to take will be zero, divided between the Head’s granddaughters. Mitsutoshi is still alive, and there’s a chance for him to recognize them.”

That’s a nuclear-level secret for the Shionjis.

“Isn't Alice's sister taking care of Mitsutoshi? That’ll be perfect. Once the old man wakes up and identifies them, the inheritance will be divided between Alice and her sister.”

“No, but Alice and Mari-san don't want to inherit, right?”

“Are you stupid? We're not going to do this for real. We’re just going to use this to threaten the Shionjis, that this will happen if it’s all revealed.”

Ah, I see. So that's what he means.

“But” Yondaime hushed his voice again, “If that’s the truth, the risk will be equally big. We’re talking about an astronomically high figure being involved here after all.”

I swallowed my bitter saliva. He’s saying that we should be prepared for the worst, that we will be silenced forever.

And thus, I realized this was what Shionji Keiichi was referring to. There was a document in the room when Shionji Mitsuki was murdered, Is that proof of his parental lineage with the Head Mitsutoshi? And Alice knew of this fatal secret to Shionji Mikitsugu, who could take the entire inheritance to himself.

So that’s why he wants Alice silenced forever?

When Shionji Mitsuki was still alive, Shionji Mikitsugu said that he would rather have Alice inherit than have it fall into the hands of outsiders. However, he got the chance to inherit everything, and intends to eliminate Alice, who knew the truth.

The rotten vortex of blood and desire left me nauseous.

The madness of the Shionjis

It’s way too risky to blackmail them with this to obtain Alice,

“If there’s a need to, leave the negotiations to me.”

“Eh…n-no, I can’t have you do such a dangerous thing.”

“It’s worse if you’re to handle this. You’re way too honest.”

For a moment, I really couldn’t say anything . Is this secret even useful? The one hiding Alice isn’t Mikitsugu, but Keiichi. If he’s to weigh between the inheritance his grandfather can get against Alice, Keiichi will surely choose Alice, won’t he?

Or perhaps I should just reveal what I know without threatening him instead. Shionji Mitsuki is Head Mitsutoshi’s own son. If this is revealed to everyone under the sun, it’ll be pointless to silence Alice, and the reason to hide her is no more.

No, maybe there’s no reason to hide her anymore, but that’s not enough reason to let her go. It doesn’t hurt Shionji Keiichi personally in any way.

I didn’t know what to do. There’s so much I didn’t understand, and I couldn’t determine my direction.

Thank you for helping me, I’ll go back and think about it; saying that, I stood up.

“So what are we going to do!?”

“Where are we going to fight!?”

“Who are we going to shape up!?!”

Yondaime and I left the storeroom, and the bunch of gorillas surrounded us, yapping away. Shocked, I stumbled back, bumping into Yondaime behind me. I glanced back, trying to gauge his reaction, “Deal with it.” but he coldly retorted. Seriously, we haven’t exactly decided on what we’re going to do.

“Erm, what I need everyone to do ──”

“We’re willing to give our all for Alice nee-san!”

Pole said, glaring with ferocity,

“We’re stypid. We don’t understand the complicated stuff, but we’re willing to do anything!”

Rocky too added on with bloodshot eyes,

“Nee-san always took care of us, but we haven’t repaid her in any way!”

“Tell us what needs to be done, we won’t disappoint you, aniki!”

“We’ll do anything for nee-san!”

I intended to coax them and run away, but my words were stuck in my throat, and I ended up stupefied in the middle of twenty or so stares. I suddenly felt some warmth deep within my abdomen, and with my trembling lips, I swallowed the overwhelming emotions back into my lungs. I finally made it tangible, and spoke up,

“…I’ll come up with a strategy soon. Until then, I’ll need everyone’s help. Please lend me your strength.”

“──Roger!”

“Roger!”

The gang members answered.

Once I left the office, I and looked up at the flowery cloudy skies, and pedalled on my bicycle. As the winds blew in my face, the heat in my body became more definted.

I called out to Alice, who was somewhere under the same sky.

There are many here waiting for you. Everyone’s worried about you. This town is your home, isn’t it?

If you have forgetton, or are trying to forget about this ──

I’ll make sure that you’ll remember.

*

Hiro’s investigations didn’t go well. The biggest problem we have is that we don’t know what’s the family name of Alice’s mother is. It’s too late to regret not asking Alice or Mari-san, and I couldn’t call Shionji Keiichi (He might give the name easily, but he would have sniffed out our intentions), Hiro can only ask his acquaintances in Ginza, and try his luck friend. There’s also a chance our messages would be hacked, so he could only call or meet them directly.

And so, he was completely worn out once he returned to ‘Ramen Hanamaru’ at noon.

“I didn’t sleep the entire night. It’s been a while since I last walked that much, but too bad I whiffed on everything.”

Hiro said that wearily, and immediately finished the PET bottle.

“It was more than twenty years ago when her mother was a hostess, right? I don’t know if the shop she worked at back then is still around…looking at this rate, it’s unlikely we’ll find it, and even if we do, we might not be able to obtain anything really valuable.”

“So are you saying that it’s better for us…to give up on the mother?”

Hiro weakly nodded, and I looked down, sorting my thoughts out.

We need any and every weapon that allows us to seize the initiative from Shionji Keiichi’s hands. We got one thanks to Yondaime, but it’s unreliable. The point about Shionji Mitsuki being borne out of incest is just a guess, there’s no actual proof, and we don’t know how much damage it can cause. It’s over if he just dismisses it “Go ahead and reveal it.” We need something more concrete. Looking at what was said during the Shionjis’s family meeting at the hospital, I can tell the circumstances behind the death of Alice’s mother is very suspicious. If we keep digging there, it might cause fatal damage to the Shionjis.

But we really don’t have much time. While I continue to think about this, Alice might collapse.

“It’ll be easier if only there’s someone of direct relation to Alice’s mother …”

Someone with direct relation to Alice’s mother. The Shionjis, the posh clubs at Ginza─

“—Ah”

Hiro looked up,

“What?”

“Th-there might be one.”

I fished out the cellphone from my pocket, and made a call. Right, there should be a mama at a Ginza club. Which number is that again?

“Narumi-kun, you know such people?” Hiro widened his eyes.

“Gorou-sensei’s women.”

“Ahh!” a tad later, Hiro realized.

Mari-san mentioned that Shionji Mitsuki met the woman who would become his mistress after Gorou-sensei brought him to a club. Someone like Gorou-sensei can’t possibly not have done anything to the women in those clubs. I looked for the numbers of the 13 women who were given Gorou-sensei’s parting gifts. One of them might know Alice’s mother.

Of course, I had long forgotten who these names were, so I had to call them one by one. It’s a gut-wrenching job.

At the sixth──

“…Yes, that’s right. Gorou-sensei did bring his nephew along ─eh? Really? Yes, yes…right, right, of course!...Ehh, that’s…erm, I see. That’ll be best.”

Once I hung up, I gave Hiro a thumbs up,

“I’ll go over to Ginza.”

I ran off, and behind me, I could hear Hiro sighing away,

“So your gigolo skills have surpassed mine, Narumi-kun …”

She’s not my lover, you know?

   

For the first time in my life, I entered a posh club in Ginza.

I exited the elevator, and there was a little display board made out of gas lighting, with the word ‘Sawa’ there. As it was before operation hours, only the lights in a corner of the room remained lit, and there were no flowers in the exquisite vases. I was brought to the innermost place, and sat on a white leather sofa. The dazzling chandelier and the pure white grand piano were too searing to my eyes. I really was not used to being at such places, and could not sit comfortably.

“Welcome, Fujishima-san.”

The mama Sawa-san was in her fifties, dressed in splendorous cherry blossom pink which really met her well. She placed a glass cup with cold ginger ale before me, and sat 90 degrees aside from me.

“Sorry to trouble you the last time.” Sawa-san bowed politely. She was probably referring to the parting gifts. As the funeral was an act we played for Gorou-sensei, I felt really guilty about it.

“Sorry for disturbing you at your shop.”

“Please don’t mind about it. I am apologetic for showing you in when this shop is still being prepared. It does seem you wish to talk about something urgent however, and I couldn’t think of a place convenient for us to talk, so I could only humbly invite you. The other staff members aren’t around though, so rest assured.”

This service attitude from a posh club owner really left me all the guiltier.

“I suppose something really big happened, no? You hve a dangerous presence just like Gorou-san, Fujishima-san. Such men are the ones women really can[‘t let go of.”

“Well…I see.”

I didn’t know how to respond, and decided to go straight to the point instead.

“Erm, you say you know Shionji Mitsuki?”

“Yes…you want to know about Aiko-san, right?”

Seto Aiko, the name of Mari-san and Alice’s mother.

“Erm, is it better for me not to know why you are asking about Aiko-san now?”

Guilt nearly overwhelmed me as I lowered my eyes, saying,

“I’m really sorry, Erm…I have some trouble with the Shionjis, and I need to settle this, so we need to know about what happened to Aiko-san in the past…but I really can’t state the specifics.”

“It’s fine.” Sawa-san smiled, “You’re Gorou-sensei’s disciple, so I trust you.”

I have a lot of words to say, like I’m not his disciple, or you can’t really trust a disciple of that guy, but I did my best to swallow my words.

“Sawa-san, you were colleagues with Aiko-san?”

“Yes. That was before I opened the shop, about thirty years ago. It’s really nostalgic.”

Sawa-san used to be a hostess, and worked at a club in Ginza (though it appears the club is no longer around). Seto Aiko’s slightly younger than Sawa-san, and whenever she was feeling unstable, she would speak her mind with Sawa-san.

“Aiko-san resigned soon after getting together with Shionji Mitsuki, but we were still friends, and would have a meal probably once very month. I did seem her daughter Mari-san a few times while she was younger. Now she’s a global superstar …”

Sawa-san looked melancholic.

“If Aiko-san is still around, surely she will feel proud. She often said that her biggest wish is to have her own line of clothing.”

Did Seto Aiko discuss her own dreams with her young daughter Mari-san, who then fulfilled her mother’s dream to step onto the world stage?

I felt a sudden stinging pain in my heart. Following that, my dirty hands would have to dig into the memories of the dead, to obtain materials that could threaten the Shionjis.

“Erm, did that Aiko-san…mention about Mitsuki-san?”

“Mostly to grumble about him. Aiko-san never really said that they were on bad terms, but it does seem that every week, when Mitsuki-san visits them, he’s not there to look for her, but for their daughter Mari-san, so she really grumbled quite a lot.”Sawa-san laughed, “She actually got jealous of her own daughter.”

Jealous of her own daughter? I recalled the mesmerized look Mari-san had when she recalled about her father and her childhood, and it left me unable to swallow this.

“So later, the Shionjis discovered her relationship with Mitsuki-san?”

Sawa-san’s face sank,

“He was married. It was a matter of time.”

“I heard she was brought to the Shionjis?”

“Yes. Aiko-san was brought to negotiate at their residence, and Mari-san was taken from them, even had her family name changed to Shionji…I think the grandfather or someone else ordered it.”

“Did Mitsuki-san visit Aiko-san’s apartment again?”

“Impossible.” Sawa-san looked at me silly.” They made sure that Aiko-san would never meet Mitsuki-san again. Back then, she was really crestfallen, and I had enough. It seems his wife had said something really harsh to her.”

I guess so . The doubt I had when I was with Alice at the hospital occurred again. The mistress should have been pried apart from Shionji Mitsuki due to the Shionjis’ themselves, so why was she able to give birth to a second child, and that birth heavily financed by the Shionjis?

Alice said that she had more or less deduced the truth, but I dared not to ask her the answer. How did Mari-san talk about Alice’s parentage? Thinking back about it, it seemed she just made a few vague references to it.

“Mari-san has a sister, about ten years younger.”

Hearing me say that, Sawa-san widened her eyes with surprise,

“…What did you say?”

“So I thought the relationship between Aiko-san and Mitsuki-san didn’t end there just because it was revealed. Now that you said so, it seems that wasn’t the case. Did they pretend to break up and meet secretly instead?”

“It’s…impossible.”

Sawa-san said, giving a skeptical look,

“Aiko-san often told me that they wouldn’t let her meet her daughter. Once, when Mari-san left home to look for Aiko-san, she stayed for one night, and the next day, the Shionjis caught her. It seemed some harsh words were said to her, that if Mari-san dared to run away, Aiko-san was to leave Tokyo forever.”

Saying this, Sawa-san took out a handkerchief, and covered her mouth,

“…I think it was thereafter that she did that foolish thing …”

“…She…committed suicide, right?”

Sawa-san nodded, and said sadly. “Why did she not talk it through with me…”

Mari-san said her mother was killed by the Shionjis.

“I’m sorry for making you remember such painful memories, but there is something I have to be sure of. How many years ago did Aiko-san pass away?”

“How, many years ago was that…”

Sawa-san blinked, thought for a moment, said,

“Oh yes, I remember. Aiko-san said her daughter had just attended elementary school when she spent the night there, and talked a lot about school. How old is Mari-san now…26, 27? That should be twenty years ago.”

The gears of thought started to click in a corner of my mind.

Wait, the numbers don’t add up.

Seto Aiko died before giving birth to Alice?

Did Mari-san lie? Is Alice too kept in the dark regarding her own birth?

A tinge of cold air rose up my hands, coolding me. Then to whom was Alice born to?

“Is her little sister, really Aiko-san’s child?”

Sawa-san asked. I stared at the edge of the table, shaking my head.

“…I may say so…but… it doesn’t seem to be the case.”

“So she’s not the wife’s child either?”

Is Alice borne to Shionji Mitsuki’s wife, Kyouka?

In a certain sense, it’s logical. A hospital that had given birth to the nephew borne out of incest couldn’t possibility offer its finest facilities to a hostess mistress. If it’s the wife who gave birth to her however, that would make sense.

But this will create another suspicious point. If Alice is the child of the wife, why cover it up?

I recalled what Mari-san said, that Shionji Mitsuki wasn’t willing to inherit the Shionjis’s business. Once he gave birth to a heir, it would be harder for the Head Mitsutoshi to take him in as an adopted son. Did he use the child of a mistress as of his own wife instead?…No way, it’s impossible. Even if Shionji Mitsuki did really have such thoughts, he would have needed the assistance of his wife Kyouka to fool the entire world, and surely she wouldn’t have agreed.

Right. Someone said that day that Shionji Kyouka returned home immediately once she discovered her husband’s infidelity, and never returned to the Shionjis. Since she was living away from her father, it was unlikely she would have given birth.

So Alice really isn’t Seto Aiko’s child? But since she resembled Mari-san so much, it doesn’t seem like they have different mothers.

“Erm, Sawa-san…have you seen Aiko-san corpse?”

This question might really defy all common sense. Sawa-san expression froze, before she relaxed, shook her head, and said,

“No, that’s what I heard. She didn’t have a funeral.”

Not even a funeral? Then──

Assuming that Seto Aiko didn’t die, and was alive until she gave birth to Alice, what will that imply? Did she fake her death so that she could continue to meet Shionji Mitsuki, got pregnant, and suffered complications. Then she could only give up on hiding, and protected her daughter through the power of the Shionjis.

Results wise, it seemed to work out, but thinking into it, there was something conflicting. Trying to fake the death of someone is really difficult; I did that once, so I understood how hard it is. It’s really taxing, and there’s really no worth doing so unless there’s a really good reason. Faking a death just to maintain an extramarital affair. Besides, Seto Aiko committed suicide. The police would have investigated the actual cause of death, and faking her own death would be too troublesome.

I really don’t understand. What happened between then?

I firmly believed that was still some secret to the death of Alice’s mother, an unexpected one. I rubbed my fingers on my aching temples. Love, desire, hatred, all of these remained intertwined, and I really couldn’t think of anything to unlock this mystery..

“The staff members are about to start work.” Sawa-san apologized.

“Ah, I see, sorry.”

I felt a daze as I stood up, and barely pulled through by supporting myself off the table.

“Thank you for your assistance today. You told me so much, but I really couldn’t say anything. I’m really sorry.”

“Don’t say that. I’m really glad to be able to help.”

The sun was setting when I left the building the club ‘Sawa’ was located at, The shop and street lights of the Maronie Street continued to razzle and dazzle upon the packed crowds and vehicles. The night breeze of early April remained cold, and I pulled up the front of my jumper, moving towards the metro station.

   

Nobody was waiting for me when I returned to ‘Ramen Hanamaru’. Dinner operating time was about to begin, so Min-san and Ayaka were busy in the kitchen. I had nothing to do, and spaced out at the tire chair, before I stood up and .

Whenever I turned the knob to the detective agency knob, would always imagine Alice grumbling and throwing empty cans at me, getting off the bed angrily and berating me for not pressing the doorbell. But in reality, what welcomed me was the emptiness of the cold air in the room. There was no one inside, just the soft sound of the fridge running away.

I sat on the bed, waiting for the viscous, tremulous object in my mind to cool and settle down.

Was this trip really beneficial?

I found a new truth behind the Shionjis’s motives. There was a missing puzzle between Alice’s birth and her mother’s death. The truth and the reasons for hiding them remains uncertain, and Mari-san might be one of the accomplices too. Did she too get fooled by the Shionjis the entire time? I tried to recall every word she said to me. While my memory was rather hazy, I could remember the conversation I just had with Sawa-san, and the final words I said to Alice at the hospital.

Maybe I didn’t see to see the truth clearly, that I should first throw down everything I knew, and see how Shionji Keiichi would react. I would pretend to know everything, and play all my cards one by one, causing him to think I might have a fatal bomb. There’s no need to know the truth.

But it’s Shionji Keiichi I’m dealing with, and the number of effective cards would be more than what we have. I guess he’ll see through this gimmick very quickly.

This is useless. My head’s in a mess. Let’s just take a nap. I went to lots of places today, and my body feels heavy.

But while I thought of Alice’s life was trickling away for all the time I waste, I couldn’t sleep. I was completely weary, but I dared not to close my eyes.

So I turned my body around, and laid face down.

I should observe the place that detective usually resided in a different angle, only seeing what she has seen.

Alice, why were you willing to do that? Tell me. If what Shionji Keiichi said is true, your computer network should be able to connect, and you should be using your infinite intellect to rip apart that bastard’s damn defences, hack into the internet and get into the phone. I really want to talk to you, to hear your voice, to see your face…I want to meet you again.

Suddenly, I lifted my eyes.

On the racks unbefitting of a girl’s tastes, between the various devices crammed together, there was a blue item.

The spine of a book.

I got up, and checked the book I had never discovered before. At that moment, I noticed several small novels behind the rack, for I was seated at Alice’s personal space in her absence.

I pulled them out, and found them to be published under the Hayakawa SF Print Label.

‘Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home’

‘Love is the Plan the Plan is Death’

‘The only neat thing to do’…

Each of them were written by James Tiptree Jr.

Did her father give her these books? Each of them looked so old, and the head and tail had changed color, like coffee. I flipped through a few pages and found that the last page of ’The only neat thing to do’ was torn. It was a page of the afterward, the last message Alice hid beneath the ribbon of the teddy bear for me. Seeing that page, I felt the pain from back then, and I laid back onto the icy bed, covering the book on my chest.

Will I understand what Alice’s thinking after reading through them?

I tried to pick up another book, but I was just so unmotivated, and I couldn’t muster the urge to read these stories, so I could only just flip through the afterword without purpose.

Once I was flipping through the fourth book, ‘Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home’, I read through the translator afterword, and found a word sizzling slightly within my head. I didn’t know what it was, so I reread it again. There was a biography of author James Tiptree Jr., or Alice Sheldon, and an explanation of the various short stories. It served no purpose to me at this point, but I reread it three times.

Then, I finally understood, closed the book, and sat upright.

Everything made sense.

Each doubt became so clear to me, sparkling on the horizon, searing my eyes, and the heartache and exhilatration kept throbbing at my chest.

So, that’s why this happened?

That’s wy she tried that only neat thing to do?

I understood. She really had no other choice, and I was the same. The entire bloody truth had to be buried deep under. Just a few hours ago, I was thinking that I was going to dig out everything that could be used to blackmail the Shionjis, but at this point, I was really ashamed of myself.

Alice, once I sat at your place, I finally understood the cold you experienced as you digested the truth to every case. For each grave you dig up, your heart must surely be bleeding for the dead, right? I always said to you that I hoped to share that pain, even if it’s a miniscule percentage. I was so naïve to think that I could. I’m really an arrogant fool. How can this feeling be shared with others? One can only shiver with both knees cupped together, and grit my teeth, enduring this.

As the cold air rained down upon me, I stared atmy hands, stretching my stiffened fingers forward, clenched them, and straightened them again.

What should I do?

The thoughts kept echoing within my skill. What do I do? What do I do? What do I do…?

The answer was long evident before me, and in the end, I still didn’t have the makings of a detective. I could only be a con artist, piling layers of dirt and ash upon the truth, sealing and and concealing it with gold power, and fabricate it as a truth everyone could see.

I’ll fight you.

I hopped of the bed, left the room, and when I locked the door, I lifted my eyes, and spotted the board with the cute font on it.

   

NEET detective eagency

It's the only NEET thing to do.

   

It’s the only neat thing to do(It's the only NEET thing to do.)

Is that it?

Of course, because I too had this one life to live. As I descended the emergency staircase, I found four heads gathered at the back door. Each of them looked up towards me one by one, seemingly having heard my foosteps. I could see Tetsu-senpai’s tanned, ferocious face, Major’s immature, sly looking face covered with goggles, Hiro’s weary , yet gentle smile, and Yondaime’s savage, calculating scowl.

“We’ve sort of figured out where Alice is.”

Tetsu-senpai said. I sat down at the empty seat between Yondaime and Hiro.

“it’s at his company, the building Aster Tataricus is located at building, Major saw a doctor enter. We can’t be certain on this day alone, but the real estate company said that they sent a laid package upstairs, and one of them was clearly a king sized bed. Most likely, she’s inside.”

The four of them exchanged looks, and nodded, before looking towards me. Major continued,

“We don’t know which floor she’s at however, and we can’t really send in too many guards. If all the Hirasaka-gumi guys are to check every single floor, maybe we might find them.”

“But it’s pointless if they’re all locked.” Yondaime refuted, and I recalled the tight security lock of the chairman room of Aster Tataricus. If he did install such a security function at Alice’s place, it’ll be pointless to get any more people to look for her.

“What do we do now? if we can add more to the payment ──” Yondaime hissed, ”I don’t really like this, but we might have to use the worst means possible.”

“Do we interrogate Shionji Keiichi for Alice’s location?”Tetsu-senpai too hissed his voice.

“Right.”

“No.”Hiro chimed in, “What do we do later? He’s rich, and had power. There’s a likelihood he can lock us up and take Alice back easily. Everything will be over then.”

“Of course the ones to go to jail are us.”

“That’s really no good, Yondaime. Your thoughts are really like that of the yakuza.”

“Of course, I know the best option is to catch their weakness and make sure he won’t do anything again. Can’t we just barge into his office to find something? If we can find proof that he’s imprisoning Alice, we can use that.”

Tetsu-senpai shook his head,

“If it’s that easy, I would have saved Alice already. Every level of that building uses the latest security system, and there’sno way to go in. If Alice’s around, we might be able to hack in and wreck things up …”

“Can you find anything you can do, Hiro?”

Hiro answered Yondaime dejectedly.

“Nothing. I really am useless this time. What about you, Narumi-kun? Didn’t you go to Ginza? Have you found anything to blackmail them with?”

“E-erm…”

I responded halfheartly, spat a tongue out to moisten my lips, and sensed the stares gathered upon me.

Once again, I realized this was really my case. I was the one making the request, and acting as detective. It’s simple, I just want to take back the one precious to me, whom I was about to lose.

Thus, I had to make up my own mind.

“I haven’t found anything, but I got an idea of how we’re going to do this. There’s no need no threaten, and like usual ──”

But saying this really made me nervous.

“I’m going to bluff him.”

The four of them showed different expressions. The breeze felt cold and stinging, probably due to how the atmosphere had cooled, but beneath the thin layers of skin was a fire that couldn’t be constrained, throbbing away.

“Tetsu-senpai──”

“Alright!”

“I guess, in the end, we need you and the gang members to break in, so please analyse the layout of the building, find out Alice’s possible location, and choose the path.”

“Got it, already settled.” Senpai chuckled as he took out the blueprint, waving it. To be expected of him.

“Major.”

“What do I have to do?”

“Are you familiar with elevators? Can you control it?”

The immature eyes beneath the goggles blinked a few times,

“Elevator? Of course. I can handle any machine on this world in a jifty.”

“Understood. I’ll explain the details later.Hiro──”

“I’ll do anything.”

An already weary Hiro was suddenly exburent, his face flushed.

“I need you to date a woman…by tomorrow.”

“I can settle that today.”

These requests so far aren’t the hard part. What I would say next really left me unable to maintain my poise.

“Yondaime…”

“What?”

He glanced aside at me, his glare upon my face.

“Lend me some money.”

Tetsu-senpai, Major and Hiro were taken aback, while Yondaime didn’t bat an eyelid.

“How much?”

“I don’t know how much I need right now, so I can’t sort out the numbers. We’ll probably need tens of millions however.”

The sum was astronomically large, and the other three were dumbfounded. I thought I would be retorted to kingdom’s come. My sworn brother however agreed easily.

“A discount for you. 30% annual. Make sure Alice pays up.”

“──No…no problems!”

   

That night, I pedalled my bicycle to Shinjuku, and went to a seven storey building at a cross junction next to the royal residence. The lights on each level remained lit, showing the company logo ‘ZODIAC’.

I never thought I would return here again, so I thought as I stood on the pavement, looking up at the building.

Min-san’s wedding turmoil, the crisis of ‘Ramen Hanamaru’ nearly closing down, our conflict against the Hong Kong triad; that all happened last year in November. It felt like it was a month ago when I cycled with Alice riding along, her hands grabbing onto me. I exhalted, saw the cold night breeze of Spring pass along, and felt that it was years ago.

I made a call to at the counter, and waited a few moments. A tall, lanky woman dressed in pants suit exited the lobby. The short hair and sharp eyes seemed devoid of all feminine charms walked out. It was Huang Xiao Ling, Min-san’s cousin, the granddaughter to the boss of a Hong Kong triad, and the general manage of this ‘ZODIAC’ IT company. She’s a very terrifying female.

“I never thought I would meet you here again.”

Once we entered the elevator together, Xiao Ling-san said with a sigh. Same here, so I nearly retorted, but I swallowed them, and instead dispensed with the usual pleasantries.

“I’m really sorry for intruding at such a late time, especially since you’re busy.”

“Enough. Surely you aren’t here to discuss anything good.”

Xiao Ling-san brought me to her office on the sixth floor, which was neat and spacious. There were feminine decorations like vases and dolls on the racks, which relaxed me somewhat. She invited me to sit on the sofa, and served me some tea as part of the pleasantries.

“I won’t say that I don’t owe you a favour, so tell me what you want me to help you with?”

I found it more difficult to speak up.

“First, this.”

I handed a printout and a USB memory card.Xiao Ling-san looked at it, and said,

“I want you to publish this report on the frontpage of ZODIAC. I’ll specify the time.”

“This is fake news, right?”

“No. Once you air it, it’ll become reality.”

Xiao Ling-sans shot a suspicious look to my hand, exhaled, and sigh again,

“Since we’re talking about ‘first’, that means there’s a ‘second’, right?”

“Yes. Also, there is another building linked directly to East Shinjuku station. There a subsidery to ZODIAC located there, right?”

She tilted her head in confusion,

“What do you want to do?”

“I want to borrow some people.”

Xiao Ling-san shot me a sharp look. Then, she said,

“Did something happened to that little detective and her family?”

“…Eh, you know who the boss of Aster Tataricus is?”

“Goes without saying, no? We’re in the same industry, so we’ll do our investigations somewhat.”

I guess so. The companies are in the same building after all.

“Alice has some dispute against the Shionjis. Erm, the details are a little inconvenient. For your safety, it’s better not to.”

She let out a little sigh between her lips, and said,

“Always with the shady matters, and you might not return to being a normal person of society.”

“Thank you very much for the advice …”

I was well aware of this myself.

“But this involves Alice’s life. I don’t have much time left, and there’s no one else I can rely on. We need a lot of people here, and though the Hirasaka-gumi can help with the personnel, they’re way too obvious, and it’s easy for the enemy to notice our plan. So, erm…I really need your help. I’ll pay.”

Xiao Ling-san shook her head, finally having enough of me,

“That company is not managed under me.”

“…Eh?”

“That’s Hong Lei’s company, so you should ask him. I’ll explain the situation for you.”

“Ehhhhhhhhhhhh?”

I exclaimed. Huang Hong Lei, Xiao Ling-san’s older brother, and the young lord of the Hong Kong triad. He’s the most dangerous and violent of them all. You want me to ask that Huang Hong Lei?

No, it’s fine. I did consider this possibility. I thought I should have looked for Huang Hong Lei directly to make things easier, but I was really scared that he would do anything scary to me, so I decided to contact Xiao Ling-san. At least, she’s not going to beat me up or stuff a knife into my mouth.

“If you need to find a few fighters, you should be looking for Hong Lei’s assistance, right?”

“Erm…yeah, that’s right…”

“You’re a weird one. You can drag a bunch of people along for the ride to share the risks with you, and plan something that’ll cause your death if you’re not careful. Now you’re scared of asking Hong Lei?” “…I suppose I really lack imagination when the crucial moment happens.”

I scratched my head, saying.

“I guessed so.”

Xiao Ling-san picked up the phone, probably intending to call Huang Hong Lei.

“You can do the big things without a word, yet be so hesitant on the little things. I guess you really do have the makings of a triad boss.”

Please don’t make such a joke.

   


It was the following day when I returned home. I climbed the dark staircase, entered my own room, and fall onto my bed without switching on the lights.

It’s really tiring, and my limbs were as limp as ragcloth. I don’t want to experience having to ask Huang Hong Lei for assistance and negotiating a price with him again. I never thought I would have gotten him to agree. “Might not be a bad idea to have you owe me a favor.” I couldn’t shake off those words in my ears. I got a feeling that my weakness was captured by the worst person possible.

No, what’s there to be unhappy about now? I had to do what I had to do.

After my effort, I lifted my limp hands, and shoved my body off the body. I switched on the lights, and went to the computer at the table.

I made the plung. I borrowed money and gambled everything on this. There’s no turning back. I would have to rely on my own memory, and I had to squeeze out everything in my brain cells.

Suddenly, I recalled the words Shionji Keiichi said, rummaged through the CD rack, and fished out a Mr. BIG album. The 80s American Rock beats really help with computer work, huh?

Right, let’s give it a try. I shuffled the CD into the disk deck, adjusted the volume, and began to play. The barking of a dog was followed by an intense, rising and falling guitar riff as the decibels rocked a fiery rhythm that tore at the soul.

‘Colorado Bulldog’.

That’s the song connecting Alice and me.

Surely this bond hasn’t been severed. I can only believe and pull her towards me.


Back to Chapter 4 Return to Main Page Forward to Chapter 6