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t.i.tle: Koushounin series 04
Koushounin wa Hamerareru [交渉人は嵌められる]
Page: 025 – 053
Author: Eda Yuuri [榎田 尤利]
Ill.u.s.trator: Nara Chiharu [奈良 千春]
Publisher: Taiyō Tos...o...b..> Year of Release: 2010
Eda Yuuri is the original author of this work, and this is a fan translation. Feel free to re-post this elsewhere if you like but please credit this site. I did buy the original copy of this book, along with the rest of the series, so it'll be great if you can support her by buying her books.
By the way, this work contains BL, or h.o.m.o-eroticism.
As I have no formal training in translation theory nor am I an expert in j.a.panese (nor English, for the matter), I cannot guarantee the quality of this translation work, but I promise I did my best.
I have been a big fan of the Koushounin series by Eda Yuuri ever since I got my hands on the BLCDs for the first and second instalments of the series, and have been waiting patiently for the BLCDs for the third instalment onward… to no avail. It has been 8 years since the sensei published Koushounin wa Furikaeru, and I am beginning to accept that there might be no BLCD after all.
Nevertheless, the fujoshi doesn't give up. The following is my attempt at the English translation of the rest of the series.
I want you to picture this in your head.
On a satirical TV program, a comedian is singing, mimicking a famous singer.
It wasn't really a very good imitation, but he exaggerated some of that famous singer's quirks and the reception from the audience was rather average. He was a second rate comedian, yet they laughed at his jokes and clapped for him. Enthused, he sang with all his might and right after the climax of the song ended, the audience erupted in cheers.
Oh, what amazing support from the audience. Perhaps from now on, I can get by just by doing impersonations of people!
… And just as he was feeling good about himself, the audience's gaze suddenly turned on something behind him. Eh? He thought as he turned back, and there was the singer he was imitating, standing there. After a cursory glance in his direction, the singer bursts into song, in a clear and sonorous voice. The comedian pales as he thinks, what this is, I didn't hear about anything like this…
I wonder if you could imagine that.
How, how unbearably mortifying it must have been.
"Senpai. What kind of cosplay, is that?"
When I laid my eyes on Hyoudou, that was exactly how I felt.
Why did you appear in a place like this, at this very exact timing?
I very nearly said "Hyoudou?" but swallowed the words before they came out of my mouth, and stole a glance at Shimizu Kyouichi to see how he was reacting to all these, though I doubted it was his real name. Shimizu was struck by Hyoudou's yakuza aura and looked like he was completely scared out of his wits. In order to prevent my cover from being blown, I took on a deliberately haughty tone as I said: "Shut up. I'm busy right now."
Hyoudou smirked, but probably guessed that I was working right now and didn't say anything more. Shimizu rounded his back as he sneaked past Hyoudou and Hakuta, and turned back just once near the door to face my client to make a gesture that indicated he would call her.
As I watched Shimizu leave like he was making a fast break for it, I thought that he might get rid of his hand phone and that'll be the end of it.
"And? Have you finished your work?"
Hyoudou shrugged off his coat and sat down heavily opposite me. Hakuta took a seat on a table across the aisle. My client, Sawada Chimako, gave us a curious look as she weighed both men in black suits. I took off the sungla.s.ses, which didn't quite suit me, and grumbled at Hyoudou, "No, I haven't. Don't get in the way." in my usual voice.
"I still need to explain some things to my client."
"You have some explaining to do, don't you? I would like to know why you are doing this really lousy yakuza parody."
'I'm not really impersonating anyone."
"Huh. You aren't?"
"Ah, no… that is. I simply took you as a reference, or should I say that…"
Hyoudou snorted in laughter at my rather lame excuse. He spotted the pack of cigarettes on the table, and without asking, he took out a stick. This was the brand of cigarettes that Hyoudou usually smoked, and no it wasn't as if I was trying to copy him, it's just that… I unconsciously…
"Both of you look like each other," Chimako blurted, and I could only laugh vacuously in return.
"Mebuki-san, is he your friend?"
"No, he's not my—"
"I'm his boyfriend," declared Hyoudou in the intonation of a high school girl, with the cigarette still stuck in his mouth. Chimako's eyes widened, and she blinked at least twice. She didn't look shocked or surprised, she simply looked like she didn't understand what he said.
I glared at Hyoudou and said, "Just be quiet." To Chimako I said, "Eh, erm, Sawada-san," as I changed the topic back to work, "Looks like this is the end of our little trick… Are you satisfied with how things are, now?"
Yes, Chimako answered in a small voice. With a half crying, half smiling expression on her face, she said, "I feel like I've finally gotten it off my chest, somehow."
"Are you sure you are fine, with things ending like this? If we spend a little bit more time on this case, we could grab him by the scruff of his neck and hand him over to the police."
"Oh, no. This is fine… I don't think he would ever contact me again."
Chimako was no longer the innocent and simple girl she was just a few moments ago. A prudent, mature woman quietly stood herself up from her seat, and bowed to me.
"Mebuki-san, thank you for your help. When you are done with the invoice, please let me know."
I got up too, and bowed. When she tried to take the bill for our drinks I hurried stopped her, as I said, "No, that's fine. I'll make this nuisance over here pay for them," as I motioned towards Hyoudou. Hyoudou had an expression on his face that said, what, why me, but he didn't complain. Chimako, with a tiny smile, nodded and turned to leave.
She was already of a small build, but looked even smaller as she left the shop.
When I could no longer see her, I sighed just once and returned to my seat. Things did not exactly end on a very good note.
"What was that, just now?" Hyoudou asked.
"… Like I said, work."
"It looked like you were impersonating yakuza in order to chase away that lady's boyfriend. Why, is he a stalker or something?"
"Nope. He was a swindler. A marriage swindler."
Hyoudou raised his eyebrows.
"Swindler? But you let him get away, didn't you??"
"That was what the client requested."
Not to catch the swindler.
Not to hand him over to the police.
Not to single him out for blame.
"… She requested that she wanted to end this, with them still in love."
Chimako had noticed it, a long time ago.
He wouldn't give her his business card. He wouldn't tell her exactly where he lived. "I'm too shy," he would say, as he continued to turn down her offers to introduce him to her friends. They go on dates to see showrooms for apartments. I'll be great if we could live in a place like this… sweet words he would whisper into her ear, but till the very end, vague and indefinite statements. Thoughtful presents. And also, having parents or siblings that fall sick, along with other problems that aren't his fault.
Those were tricks straight out of a textbook. Tricks that was played by a third-cla.s.s marriage swindler, tricks even a layman like Chimako could see through.
Even so, she was happy, while they were still in love, she said. Even though she knew they were lies, she found his honeyed words soothing to hear. When he asked her to lend him small amounts of money, she lent them to him knowing very well that the money may never come back. She was glad whenever the money was returned.
She thought to herself many times, perhaps this person was actually a good person. She wanted very much to believe that he was.
However, Chimako's common sense and sagacity rejected that notion, again and again. He will most definitely ask me to lend him a large amount of money the next time. Possibly, he would create a situation in which she would be compelled to lend him money. And then, that'll be the end of their relationship…
"I see. If he disappears with that large amount of money, that's a marriage swindler for you. But if he doesn't show up again, she could always explain that he ran away because he was afraid of her small time gangster relative… Women, at times, can lie rather skilfully to themselves."
"I kind of get that, you know."
"Aren't people like that simply deceiving themselves?"
"Don't say that. She's just a sad, lonely woman."
"What is truly sad, is that cosplay of yours."
He jabbed a finger at me as he said that, and my mouth made a moue of defiance.
"It can't be helped, alright? I am not yakuza so the yakuza look doesn't suit me at all."
"I mean, if you were going to copy me, can't you at least put on a better quality suit for me? The young head of Suou-gumi will not wear a suit that a host from a rundown host club in the outskirts of town would wear."
"Oh, wow, I'm sorry for looking like a host from a rundown host club."
"The shoes, too… don't those sell for about seven thousand eight hundred yen?"
"Oh, just shut up."
My voice had risen because the cost of my shoes did just meet seven thousand eight hundred yen. It was on a bargain sale, so I had bought them at a price that should have been below its regular price. Even so, to Hyoudou who could casually wear shoes that cost more than two hundred thousand yen, this pair must be really cheap.
"You might not know this but law-abiding citizens have a limit to how much they can spend on things."
Yes, that is right. I am a law-abiding citizen. My job as a negotiator is not a job that is very common, but it is a respectable one. My name is Mebuki Akira, and I am thirty-three years of age.
Even if you were to look from the front and back, or from the side, I am, without a doubt, a completely honest, upright citizen.
And the person in front of me, Hyoudou Juuetsu, is yakuza, even if you were to look at him from the front and back, from the side, or from the diagonal.
If small time hoodlums in the vicinity of Sumida ward were to hear the name of Suou-gumi's young head, most of them would run off with their tails between their legs.
"But I keep asking you to let me buy your shoes and clothes for you."
"No, thank you."
"You really don't need to hold yourself back, senpai. I'm buying them for you just so that I can take them off."
"Pervert." I swore at him, but Hyoudou licked his lips wetly.
"Please don't shower too much praise on me. It makes me shy."
When the j.a.panese speak of using their arms to push away curtains hanging at the entrance of shops when referring to doing something worthless, I guess they refer to this. This man has a curious penchant for deriving pleasure from watching me squirm while being in a tight spot, so at times like this it is best to just ignore him.
As I fell silent, Hyoudou also remained silent. Nowadays, when both of us don't speak to each other, it doesn't feel awkward. Even when I am at Hyoudou's apartment, there are times when we are simply doing our own stuff; Hyoudou would be fiddling with his laptop and I'll be watching television, and before we realised it we would have both drifted off to sleep, just like that.
I don't dislike those times together, perhaps I even find them comfortable, which is why it is troubling. I, unfortunately, now know that one could experience this sort of peace and tranquillity in a same s.e.x relationship. Furthermore, on an unrelated note, that which I used to think was definitely impossible… you know… that? Well, to put it bluntly, it's very good.
Is it possible that Hyoudou and I are actually compatible?
Even though our occupation, personalities and upbringing are completely different?
"Senpai, what would you do for New Year's?"
I had been thinking with thoughts swirling around my head, but I lifted my face. Hyoudou asked, again, "How will you spend New Year?"
"How will I spend… Well. I'll watch the Kouhaku on the telly while I eat soba, and when morning breaks I'll eat the customary rice cake soup."
"All in that dirty little room of yours?"
"Yes, that's right. In that dirty little room of mine," I sniffed, and Hyoudou chuckled. It was a strangely gentle laugh, and I started to squirm a little in my seat.
"We should go to a hot spring or something… is what I would love to say, but I'll be busy end of this year through the start of the next. Well, I'll prepare the New Year's dishes, so would you like to come over to my place for the New Year's?"
"Harh? You are going to boil black soybeans and mash sweet potatoes?"
"I won't be the one boiling them. An Ane-san from Suou-gumi will make some, and portion some out for me… It's delicious, but to eat something like that when you are alone would be kind of…"
I didn't know if his next word was going to be "lonely", or "empty", or "dull", but certainly, New Year's dishes and rice cake soup aren't things you should be eating alone.
"Well… I could go."
As I haughtily acquiesced to his offer, Hyoudou nodded and said, "Alright, see you then," and stood up. From somewhere inside of his coat, something rustled.
Hyoudou then fished something out from inside of his pockets.
"I intended to drop by your office today, so I bought these just now."
He placed on the table a bag from the broiled sweet chestnut specialty store Tenshin Amaguri. Despite the bag being on the small side, I was amazed that he managed to cram it into the pocket of his coat. Wouldn't he spoil the shape of his high-end cashmere coat?
"Ooh. Thank you."
"You like them, don't you."
"Un. I love them1."
"… Could you say that again, for me?" said Hyoudou, with his head slightly tilted. Without thinking, I repeated myself, "I love…" and then clamped my mouth shut. Is he an idiot? What on earth was this person trying to make me say?
"I love them sweet chestnuts," I corrected myself. Hyoudou smirked, and left the café without another word. Hakuta bowed his farewell and followed him.
The bag of sweet chestnuts he left on the table was still a tiny bit warm.
—and, well. That was what happened near the end of last year.
Sawada Chimako's case became the last request of the year. As we predicted, Shimizu did not contact Chimako again. I called the number that Chimako told him was his several times, but no one answered. A few days later, a message 'the number you have dialled is not in service' would play when I dialled that number.
Just to be doubly sure, I called the trading firm which Shimizu purportedly worked for, and was told that the department 'Logistics Management, Third Section' did not exist, and that they have no records of an employee called Shimizu Kyouichi.
"That sounded like a swindler that couldn't follow through till the end, don't you think?" said Ayaka and she bit and pulled on a long, chewy strand of mochi.
"Yea. Is he stupid or something? On by the way, I sure would have liked to see Mebuki's yakuza cosplay," said Tomonori as he picked up a piece of fish cake from his bowl with his chopsticks and dumped it into Kiyo's bowl. It would appear that he didn't like anything that was made from fish paste. Kiyo then chewed happily on the fish cake that was given… no, forced onto him.
"Don't call it cosplay, alright. I did it for work." I picked up a pair of festive chopsticks and said the customary Itadakimasu with my palms pressed together, before starting on my bowl of New Year rice cake soup.
Today was Mebuki Nego Office's first work day this year. I had no cases that carried from last year into the next, so I had indulged in a rather lengthy New Year break, but I would have to return to the brisk pace of my work starting today.
"It must be hard being a negotiator. You have to go undercover as a host, and then yakuza…"
Today's New Year rice cake soup was made by Sayuri-san. Since she was born and bred in the downtown areas of Tokyo, her rice cake soup was flavoured the way the people in her hometown liked it; grilled oblong-shaped mochi, bits of chicken meat, radish, carrot, red-white fish cake, and j.a.panese spinach in a clear broth.
"Mm, this is delicious. This is the first time I had rice cake soup like this!" Ayaka exclaimed in delight.
I did say it was the first day of work for Mebuki Nego Office this year, but Ayaka does not work here. She is one of the more popular girls in a s.e.x establishment that Hyoudou runs, but she drops by my office rather often to see Sayuri-san, whom she is close to.
Tomonori is a high school student, and the nephew of Suou-gumi's k.u.michō. He dislikes his father, who is also yakuza, and although he went through a rebellious phase at one point of time, he has very much settled down now. He seems to like coming by my office every once in a while, and he goes out with Kiyo sometimes, without all of us.
Kiyo's real name is Mimura Kiyoi. He is only twenty-two years of age but he is person that I can rely on. I employ him on part-time basis as he has a main job in a company that provides specialised cleaning services.
"Is there anyone else who wants more mochi?" Murai Sayuri-san asked, as she held up a grill, on which were more pieces of mochi that were grilled to perfection.
Our hands shot up enthusiastically, and she proceeded to drop one into each of our bowls. Murai Sayuri-san is a hale and hearty woman of seventy-two years, and she bears the responsibility of managing our accounts and the office on her thin shoulders. She also becomes extremely frightening when angered, and in this office, her words carries the most weight.
Sayuri-san set her bowl on the table and held up an index finger.
"Tell me how many more you want by indicating the number with your fingers. This is one, and this is two. Well most people will eat no more than two more, though."
'Three' was curling your index finger and thumb in a circle, in other words, the universal 'OK' sign. For 'four' and 'five' you simply held up the required number of fingers, but you do a thumbs-up for 'six', presumably to differentiate it from 'one'. There was a sudden hubbub of noise as everyone began to play with finger gestures while they ate their rice cake soup. What a very laid-back first workday of the year this was, I thought, but I guess it suited our office just fine.
Then, the door chime rang.
Kiyo was the first person to react. He looked up upon hearing the chime, but he was in the middle of putting a piece of mochi into his mouth. I'll get it, I told him, and got up to open the door to the office.
Late last night, I received an email requesting for a free, first consultation session. The message said that it would be better if we met as soon as possible, so I scheduled the meeting for today, but I still had more than thirty minutes before the stipulated meeting time.
"Yes?" I said to the visitor over the interphone, and the voice of a young man replied sheepishly: "I'm sorry. Am I too early?"
"Oh no, it's alright. The office smells a little of rice cake soup now, but do come in." I opened the door to invite my client in—and froze.
It was him.
Standing at my door was the marriage swindler, Shimizu Kyouichi.
He didn't recognise me, probably because I wasn't wearing sungla.s.ses now. Turning to me and giving me an earnest bow, he said: "Thank you for having me today."
I wondered briefly what I should do next, but decided that I couldn't turn away a client which I had previously agreed to meet. Hurriedly, I rearranged my face into a smile and showed him to the visitor's corner. The young man bowed once to everyone else, who was still eating rice cake soup, before seating himself on the sofa.
"Eh… erm. You said you were a victim of stalking, did you not?"
"Yes, that is right," he answered, a look of great distress on his face. Was he putting on a show? Was this part of an elaborate trick he was playing on me…?
"First, please fill this in for me." Despite my misgivings, I handed him a consultation form and a pen.
Since I do not require clients to leave their full names in order to put in requests for a meeting, there are many instances when I only know of their names after they have filled in this form. As I watched him fill in his name, I noticed that he had written 'Shimizu Kyouichi', and indicated that he was twenty-seven years of age. I was surprised that he would use the same false name, but I didn't let it show on my face.
Feigning calmness, I turned to him and said: "Well then, Shimizu-san." The first thing I could do is to sound him out, to see if he was truly up to no good. "Please let me in on all the details. How long have you been going out with this stalker of yours?"
"Mm… only around two months."
"How did you two meet?"
"On the internet."
To sum up what the man who called himself Shimizu said, his stalker was someone in the service industry, but she did not tell him where and what she worked as. She was thirty years old, a great beauty, and rather wealthy; her clothing and accessories were all from luxury brands. At first, they would go on dates once or twice a week, and she seemed normal and sensible, then.
"But… two weeks ago, she began to text me more frequently."
Shimizu took out his hand phone and showed me his message inbox, which was filled with texts by a 'Remi-san', all sent almost one after the other. He showed me some of the messages, too.
'What are you doing now?' 'I was having a meal alone and couldn't stop thinking about you, Kyouichi-kun.' 'I found this wonderful looking jacket in Roppongi, and I think it will suit you, Kyouichi-kun.' 'Could I see you now?' 'I wish you would reply to my texts.' 'I'm sorry, please forget that. I'm sure you are busy.' 'I bet you could reply my texts, as even a one-liner would do.' 'You've read my messages, haven't you? Why are you ignoring me?' 'I'm sorry. Have I made you angry?' 'I said I was sorry, didn't I?' 'Please, don't hate me…!'
"Hmm. I guess the last few texts really sounded like they were from a stalker."
Shimizu shuddered. "Oh yes. It's really scary," he said as he bobbed his head at Sayuri-san, who brought over tea for us. "She would shower me with presents, too, and it's getting out of hand. At first I would be happy to receive them, but over time it became a little creepy."
"What kind of things would she buy for you?"
"All sorts of things… clothing, watches, hand-made sweets and home-cooked dishes, and recently she has started saying that she would make me a lunch box everyday…"
"Lunch box? You two aren't living together, I presume?"
"Oh no, we aren't. I didn't even tell her where I lived, but she found out after following me home one day. She was really persistent about wanting to drop off that lunch box at my workplace every day… and I panicked." He sighed loudly, as if to demonstrate how difficult this period was for him.
I made myself smile as I played along with him. "I guess it is understandable that you would. It would be really troublesome if she went to your workplace. You said you were working at a trading firm, didn't you?"
He didn't write that down on the form I had given him, nor did he mention his workplace in the text he sent me. In other words, this was my attempt to ensnare him… but Shimizu fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. He really was pretty slow in the head for a swindler.
"I guess you really have gotten yourself in a sticky situation, haven't you?"
"Indeed. I had no idea… that she was like that… I sure am unlucky."
"True. You failed your last attempt, too."
"Yea, that too, and… huh?"
I smiled drolly and called Kiyo over, before pulling out the pair of sungla.s.ses which I had kept away in the desk drawer. After putting them on, I a.s.sumed a haughty pose as I leaned back on the sofa. In a low voice I said: "Do you remember me now?"
Shimizu gaped at me with rounded eyes, and he froze for a moment with that idiotic look on his face before squawking loudly, "Ah!"
"You're, you're that yakuza from the last time!"
"That is correct. However I was simply putting on an act for you at that time, and this is who I really am. I am not yakuza but a negotiator."
"W-What? Then, what are you doing here?"
"That's what I should be asking, really," I said, as I removed the sungla.s.ses. "Weren't you the one who sent me a email wanting to meet?"
"B-But… I heard from some friends who were working as hosts… that there was guy you could count on working in this office… I had no idea that you were the negotiator they were talking about!"
In other words, it was a coincidence. The world sure is small… but I guess there aren't that many negotiators around anyway, so it was possible that he would end up here entirely by chance.
I tore up his consultation form right in front of him, as he stared at me weakly.
"I already know that your name and workplace are false. Sawada-san and this Remi-san you were talking about were all women you thought were sitting ducks and were intending to cheat, weren't you? My apologies, I do not accept requests from marriage swindlers." I declared.
His lips twitched and for a moment and he looked like he was about to say something, but he hung his head instead. Those who were eating rice cake soup in the other room had, by now, noticed the commotion in the visitor's corner. Ayaka and Tomonori, in complete disregard of our need for privacy, decided to pop their heads into the room.
"Hey. What's going on here, Mebuki-san?"
"This person is a marriage swindler, you say? Huh, isn't he the swindler we were talking about earlier, the one who was unable to get the job done?"
Both of them came closer to stare down at the young man, without bothering to hide the curiosity on their faces. He, on the other hand, looked extremely crestfallen.
"Arara, doesn't this mean that the marriage swindler was now being stalked by the woman he was targeting?"
"And of all places you could have gone, you come to this office to try to get your problem solved… you must be h.e.l.luva stupid."
Both Ayaka and Tomonori did not mince their words.
"Huh. I thought that marriage swindlers would be dashingly handsome, but you look pretty normal."
"Brains are more important than looks for a swindler, after all. I heard that all their lies and pretences must be perfect down to the details, if not they won't bear scrutiny."
"Of course. Women aren't that stupid, too."
"You don't seem to have foresight, nor do you have a plan for when things go wrong, like now. I'm really sorry to tell you this but you aren't cut out for this job. Most swindlers are… you know, more…"
"I know that, alright!"
Ayaka and Tomonori went silent in shock, and both of them took a quick step backward. Kiyo, with a slightly worried look, slowly emerged from the other room to stand beside Tomonori. I was sitting opposite the young man and was also surprised by his angry outburst, but I didn't move.
The man raised his face. His cheeks were flushed red, and so were his eyes. He looked like he would burst into tears any moment.
"I-I know, that I wasn't suited for this job," His voice trembled as he lifted his eyes to meet Tomonori's. "I've been doing this for three years… and had more failures than successes. My targets would find out I was cheating her halfway, or she would decide that she liked someone else… sometimes I would even lend a girl money to get her to trust me, and that'll be the last I ever saw of her!"
Uwa, it can't get any worse than that.
That was the thought I had in my head, but I didn't say it out loud. I had a feeling if I said that, he really might start crying.
"Even though I am a marriage swindler, I would find myself in debt. Sometimes I would have to do part-time work for a while just to make ends meet. That is why I am fully aware that this job isn't for me. But what else could I have done? I haven't even completed middle school, and you guys are right, I am rather stupid. Very stupid, in fact. I don't have any business connections or family left, too. There was nothing else I could do, but…" his voice trailed off and he hung his head once more.
Ayaka and Tomonori maintained their awkward silence. They thought it was an incompetent swindler, but probably didn't think that he would be so bad that he has had to spend more money on his women than he made off them. It was like they thought they were giving a bully a good telling off—only to find out that the bully was also getting bullied, too.
Sayuri-san's light footsteps drew near.
She was carrying a tray with a small bowl on it, and she perched the bowl in front of the third-rate swindler. It was a bowl of rice cake soup, and he must have caught a whiff of the broth as he lifted his face to see what it was. There were tears glittering at the corners of his eyes.
"Eat." Sayuri-san voice wasn't very kindly. In fact, it sounded like she was commanding him to eat it. "I bet you haven't had rice cake soup this New Year. Here, eat."
"But…!" he protested shrilly, but Sayuri-san gave him a small glare. He probably realised that it was no use to argue with her, so he timidly picked up the pair of chopsticks. At the same time, Sayuri told Ayaka and Tomonori: "Now, now, those who have finished their soup should leave, so shoo!"
Chastised, both of them obediently went: "Yes ma'am," and shortly after they left the office, bag and jacket in hand, with Kiyo seeing them out.
I stayed silent, watching over the young man as he ate his rice cake soup.
How should I put this…? I also felt it when I first met him, but he really didn't seem all that bad. No, truth was, people who were really rotten to the core were actually pretty hard to find. However, this third-rate swindler looked particularly… distanced from truly evil deeds, or maybe you could say he really wasn't capable of them. He seemed to be well aware of that, too. Even the amounts of money he had attempted to extort from Sawada-san up till then had been trifling amounts.
The man finished his soup, and lifted his face.
"Thank you very much for the meal," he said with a polite bow, and it looked like he did it rather often.
He said he didn't have family left, but it was obvious that they taught him manners as a child when they were still around. Sayuri wordlessly removed his bowl, and came back to refill our cups of tea. Whenever Sayuri refilled the tea, it is a silent command that I spend more time talking to that visitor. Well… she is very much older than I am, so I couldn't very well refuse.
"What is your real name?"
"Be frank with me this time. I won't report you to the police."
It wasn't me he trusted… rather, he probably trusted Sayuri-san and her rice cake soup. "Shizu Kyousuke," he said, in a small voice. He really must be a bad swindler, since he had unwisely chosen a fake name that was similar to his real one.
"My a.s.sociates were discourteous to you. I apologise for that."
"… It's the truth, anyway." He then sniffed, audibly.
"Were you also telling me the truth when you told me that someone called Remi-san was giving you trouble?"
"It is all true. I sound really pathetic, really, but there is nothing I can do about it now. She wouldn't listen to me when I tell her I want to break up… I am afraid that one day she'll take a knife and stab me. I don't have insurance so it'll be real bad for me if I get stabbed."
What a troublesome first client of the year. I could turn him down again, like just now, and I still think I have every right to. I don't intend to be choosy when it comes to my clients, but things are different when the client is a criminal.
However—I turned my head to look at Sayuri-san. Her back was on me, and she was tapping busily on her abacus, but I could feel it questioning me. "Are you sure it is okay, to leave things like that? Are you sure you wouldn't regret turning him out?" it seemed to ask.
"… I will take up your case on one condition."
I looked at Shizu squarely in the eye.
"Quit the scam business and live an honest life."
"Isn't it a good chance to? You also know that you aren't really cut out for this anyway. Become a law-abiding citizen, then."
"But, I'm… really quite stupid."
Un, that is true. That is why I am telling you to quite being a swindler, aren't I? I thought in exasperation, but left these words unsaid. Instead changed the topic to Sawada Chimako. I told him that she had known that he intended to cheat her from the very beginning.
"She knew you were a swindler, but couldn't bring herself to dislike you. That was why she played that trick on you to get you to break up with her."
"… It sounds weird coming from me, but you do have a strange charm to you. I'm think you can find a job that will suit you better than cheating people, perhaps in the service industry, or in sales… you have a part time job now, right?"
Shizu nodded. "I've been on this part-time job for quite some time now."
"Then there really is no need for you to try so hard at being a swindler, isn't there?
"It was… a profession I looked up to."
"What nonsense are you spouting now? Don't look up to criminals." I admonished him, and he replied glumly: "I guess that's true, too."
"Anyway, do think about it. Call me when you make up your mind."
Shizu nodded, and got up from his seat to bow deeply to Sayuri-san. "The rice cake soup was delicious," he said. Then he left my office, looking rather sad and dejected.
The first thing he did when he reached the hospital was to go up to the reception desk.
Visitors nowadays couldn't just go in and out of the hospital whenever they wished. He signed his name on the register, received a tag in return, and was told that he would need to report to the nurse's station.
"I am Hashimoto Souji's younger brother," he said, in a voice that was almost a whisper. The nurse nodded unsmilingly, and showed him to a room next to the nurse's station.
"He doesn't have much consciousness left… your parents were here, just now."
He knew they came. He pa.s.sed them by at the entrance of the hospital just now.
"I was overseas all these while… when I received news that his illness had taken a turn for the worse, I rushed home to see him. How is he doing now? Is it true that there is no hope for recovery?"
"I'm afraid that recovery would be difficult. The doctor-in-charge of him said the same, too."
I see, the visitor murmured as he looked down onto the p.r.o.ne figure sleeping on the bed. The face of the person, which was half obscured by an oxygen mask, was ashen. He looked so different from when he was still healthy, when he practically glowed with virility and confidence.
"Erm… do you know where my brother keeps his laptop?"
"In the last email my brother wrote to me, he mentioned that he had his laptop with him in his ward. He also said that if he were to go into a coma… erm, there is a lot of private information in his laptop, so he would like me to dispose of it."
Ah, said the nurse with a nod.
"Come to think of it, Hashimoto would often be using his laptop despite not being in the best of health… that one up there on the shelf is probably his."
The visitor followed the nurse's line of sight and spotted a laptop on the shelf, sitting beside a few books.
"I'm sure it's that one… however, there is still a chance that Hashimoto-san will wake up, isn't there?" The visitor's eyes searched the nurse's face, like he was looking for affirmation, but the nurse dropped her gaze.
"I cannot say anything for sure, but…"
"But, Hashimoto-san is someone with immense strength of will… he told me that he had a great many things to do, and that he couldn't lose to his sickness."
"Yes. Your brother was that kind of person."
"He was a police detective, after all."
"Yes… he was someone who poured his heart and soul into his work."
The visitor managed a small laugh, and she smiled, too.
The nurse left the ward immediately after that. She probably thought that he would like to be alone with his elder brother.
The ward had two beds, but the other one in the room was empty. It was so silent that you could hear a pin drop, and the only sound that could be heard was the faint whirring of the medical machines.
Then, the eyes of the figure on the bed fluttered open.
Perhaps he had sensed the presence of someone else in his ward, and had woken up to see who it was. His eyes slowly rolled in their sockets to fix themselves on the visitor. His lips quivered. Who are you, they seemed to ask. It seemed that he could no longer see clearly, nor speak aloud. It was almost a miracle—that he would regain consciousness at this very exact timing.
The visitor drew nearer. He had many questions to ask, and very limited time.
He said his name into Hashimoto's ear, and Hashimoto's eyes widened and his fingers twitched. He seemed to be desperately trying to lift his wrist, his fingers… to reach a hand towards the visitor. However, his hand only hovered for a moment, before dropping back onto the bed.
The visitor clasped that hand in his, and Hashimoto's eyelashes fluttered, in a silent plea.
1 When Hyoudou asked Mebuki if he liked, suki, the sweet chestnuts, Mebuki had replied, "Un, daisuki." without a subject or a particle. This 'love' could have referred to Hyoudou instead of sweet chestnuts, which was why Hyoudou wanted him to repeat it, because it probably sounded really nice, since that poor wakagashira hasn't heard Mebuki say anything like that to him in the past three volumes of this series despite going through so much with him.
…Well, it really was something simple but I couldn't find the English that would do this properly, so here you go.