Volume 1, Chapter 5
Beginning the next day, my school life became very busy. As soon as school was over, I had to take care of the garden. Sayuri-sensei helped out with that too.
“Before Fujishima-kun entered the Gardening Club, I came over here to help out occasionally too.”
Holding the pot of orchid, she said emotionally.
You could just put the flowers aside in the winter season when the flowers don't bloom, those were my thoughts before this; but now I know that if we didn't prepare during the winter, the flowers wouldn't bloom the next year.
I, myself, don't know why I'm continuing the Gardening Club activities, but I just felt that if I continued to take care of the plants that Ayaka nurtured, I might be able to know her thoughts better, albeit slightly. Those were my thoughts.
After finishing the club activities, I went through the Shuto Expressway by the river, went past the station and arrived at ‘Hanamaru’. After greeting Min-san, I went to the back of the shop.
The only person who was earlier than me that day was Hiro. He wore a coat with gold buttons sewn onto it with a pair of white jeans. I've never seen Hiro wearing the same clothes before, but they'll probably be gifts from women anyways.
Hiro was sitting on the charred gas tank with a phone clamped between his shoulders and ears, and sending messages with the two phones on his hands. It's just like the acrobatics people do on the streets.
“…… Ah? Is this Mika? It's me, yes yes, I'm Yumi's friend, that's right, Hiro. Nice to meet you. Hahaha, Eh? Really? Asking me out…… Hmm, mmnn, what about this Friday? Are you free?”
If other people who aren't in the know heard him talking, they would probably just think that he's flirting. But his words follow a common pattern, unknowingly changing the subject to the drug. “Ah, I've heard about it. That's right, a pink powder…… Mnn, no, I've never tried it before, but I've heard from my friends that it's great. Who's the one who bought it? Mnn, mnn……” just like that.
I sat on the worn out tires, looking at Hiro, impressed. Hiro turned off the phone on his right and, hung up the phone that he was previously talking on and placed it into his pocket, then smiled at me. After that, his left hand continued it's previous actions, writing something on a piece of paper with a pen.
“It seems like quite a lot of girls have bought it before, but they've bought it from their friends, so it's hard to find the source.”
I asked, purely because of interest: “Hiro, how many girls do you know?”
“Mnnn—— I don't know.”
Just after Hiro answered me, his phone rang again. Hiro picked up the phone, and started his strawberry-like sweet talking, he really doesn't have any free time. While he was talking on the phone, Hiro's left hand didn't stop at all. The thing that was placed on the table seemed to be a map of the places nearby the station, Marui Supermarket, Balco Supermarket, Tokyu Home Center, First Bookshop…… A red pen was used to draw another and another circle on the streets between the shop names that I've just seen.
Hiro finally heaved a sigh, placed a row of phones on the table (there's not only three, but also two more in his pockets). He stretched and drank a cup of coffee.
“This one is for female high schoolers, this one is for wives; this one is for attacking the ladies that I want to go out with, this one is for defending against the ladies that I don't like that much……” Hiro explained the usage of his phones one by one. Attack? Defend?
“When compared to a gigolo, you're more like a hustler……”
I was somewhat defeated by Hiro.
“Do you know what is the difference between a gigolo and a hustler?”
Hiro asked. I tilted my head.
“A gigolo is exclusively locked onto someone, while a hustler must be loved at the same time by three people or above. I'm still a rookie, and dare not say that I'm a hustler.”
“Ah……” What a complicated world. “So, what about a man who is loved by two people at the same time?”
“A person who goes out with two women usually gets a knife in his chest by the women, so they don't need a name.”
“Oh, I see.” Wait, why am I agreeing??
“But after starting the investigation, it really is muddled up. It's no small wonder that Yondaime would have trouble with this.”
Hiro turned the map over and said, filling the spaces with names of women and numbers.
“What is that?”
“The price is too cheap, they've bought them from people that they know, and also the price doesn't even have a standard. This drug is too strange, it's even so common too……”
Ah, so the numbers are prices. I have no idea about prices for drugs, so I'm not sure what they mean by cheap. There are even some zeroes on the map, does that mean that they got them for free?
“What about this side of the map?”
“Ah, that's the place they bought the drug. A double circle would mean that it's suspected as the source of the drug.”
I was dumbstruck, staring at the map that was almost completely dyed red. It was not even three days after they vowed to look for Toshi, but Hiro, alone, had already gotten so much information from his five phones.
“Vice Admiral Fujishima is here! Just at the right moment.”
A voice came from behind me. When I turned my head around, Major was standing behind me while carrying an enormous backpack that looked like a small hill.
“Help me to take the backpack down, this thing is broken.” Major said. So, I went over to help him, and spent a lot of effort before we lightly placed the backpack onto the ground.
“I stayed up for two days straight to finish that!”
Major seemed quite delighted when he said that, took out small cameras from his bag and placed them on the wooden stand. The said cameras were just palm-sized black cubes with a round lens on it. There were about twenty identical cameras.
“Major really went all out!”
“I've actually finished making the cameras a long time ago, just that installing a verifying software took a long time. There weren't any missions for pinpointing a certain target until now, so there wasn't any chance to use it, hehe.”
“So how do you use these cameras?”
“You've come just at the right time, Vice Admiral Fujishima. Actually you look very bland, so using you for a test would be perfect.”
I just feel that Major said something rude to me in a straightforward manner. Major borrowed the socket in the kitchen, connected it to the notebook-sized computer, and arranged quite a few cameras in an arc to face my face. Then, he asked Hiro to raise one of them, looking at the computer screen while making adjustments: “Shift it down a little, that's right, okay, it's done.” Then Major turned to me and said:
“Walk outside and then walk back again.”
Completely befuddled, I acted in accordance with Major's word, walked out and walked back to their side. As soon as I entered the shadows of the building, Major's computer emitted the piercing sound of an alarm. I was startled and took a step back. Hiro was so surprised that the camera on his hand nearly fell. Only Major was laughing sneakily while slapping his knees.
“Hmm, its accuracy is indeed higher if you take the photo from the front. Vice Admiral Fujishima, try to walk in with your head lowered this time.”
After that, I followed Major's instructions, keeping my head lowered, walked horizontally, or turning my head around while walking. I did these odd actions while walking from outside to the kitchen backdoor. Every time I walked in, Major's computer would sound the alarm. It was not until Min-san scolded: “Shut up, keep quiet! And don't just use my socket like you own it!” that things came to an end. However, Min-san didn't really say anything about the camera and the computer.
I finally realized after that……
“The camera could recognize my face?”
“That's right. If a photo is taken from a close distance from six sides, the accuracy could be that high. When I went to the research room on summer, the professor was doing an experiment on this, so I just borrowed his idea.”
“Oh, that's interesting.” Hiro went closer to look at the camera and the monitor. This really isn't the standard of interest. Having such superb skills, why is he still a NEET?
“You're going to use it to search for Toshi?”
“We don't really have that big of a budget, so we have to lock onto some places. This system really uses up a lot of power.”
“Never mind the battery, what about the information about Toshi's face? You can't use the system without it, right?”
“The surveillance system in Alice's room probably has information for about a month.”
Ah, so Major was the one behind the surveillance cameras too? I just feel that things are getting to a larger and larger scale, I could only watch at the side with my mouth open like an idiot.
“Oh yeah, where's Tetsu?”
Major placed the cameras back into his bag and asked.
“He's probably at the police station.”
“Ah, if we have the investigation report from the police, we could pinpoint a place to set up the cameras.” Major said as if it wasn't anything important.
“Tetsu-senpai…… has connections with the police?”
Hiro smiled wryly, is it because my surprised expression is that funny?
“Before he started boxing, he was always taken care by the police. I remember that it was the youth counselors who brought him to the boxing center while weeping and asked them to take care of him. After he started boxing, he stopped getting into fights.”
In the end, he became a pachinko gambler right now—that was Hiro's conclusion. I've never heard about Tetsu-senpai's past, but he couldn't just get information from the police, could he……
Right when I was thinking about that, Tetsu-senpai appeared at the ramen shop. It was about seven at night. He took out a notebook from his T-shirt, then put it in front of Major and Hiro with a thunk.
“Tetsu, you reek of smoke.”
“It can't be helped, the only place where the smell of cigarette is stronger than the pachinko shop is the police station. And the smell of smoke isn't the main point. I tidied up the map a bit, so take out yours for a look.”
Major skimmed through the notes while saying: “There's really not much progress for the police's investigation.” Looking from the side, the notebook was scrawled full of words written with a pencil, probably Tetsu-senpai's notes? He really did get news from the police?
The three surrounded the old wooden stand and started to talk quietly. Hiro added the information from the police onto the map full of red marks.
There's really no room for me to take part in this anymore.
When they were having a discussion over there, I went into the ramen shop and helped to wash the dishes. Min-san didn't ask me for help, it's just that I couldn't idly stay at the backdoor of the kitchen anymore, so I willingly offered to help.
“— wouldn't it be better if we handed the information to Yondaime too?”
“I don't want to borrow the strength of his gang.”
“But progress will come about faster if we share information.”
“I'll take a copy of this over, and will go to the hotel as well. I have something to ask some of the girls directly.”
“Tetsu, so could you help me set up the surveillance cameras?”
When I was eavesdropping in the kitchen, the three finished their discussion and left. The customers came in like they were taking turns to eat. In the steam of the bustling shop, I felt as if I had been forgotten by everyone.
Probably because of my dejected expression, Min-san patted me on the shoulders.
“…… the three of them…… seem very good at this.”
“Oh yes— they've done these kinds of things before. Although they're just helping Alice, I really think that they should go to work already if they can do things to this extent.”
I think so too.
“It's because we couldn't do it that we became NEETs!”
Alice said jubilantly. As usual, the air conditioning in room 308 is going strong. The pajamas-clad girl was in a good mood that day, and even ate the soy sauce ramen with some noodles in it without even much grumbling.
“Most of the people in this world don't understand NEETS. The qualities of humans are not determined by their quantity, but their direction. Even if people say something like everyone has their own strengths, their own ambitions, and life has limitless possibilities, they are still limited by the one dimensional world during actual evaluation.”
“…… Do you mean even Min-san can't understand?”
“Master is different, because she wouldn't say all that rubbish. The things that she taught us were after understanding all our fates, her innocent and true considerations. But people like Master are a minority, most people don't really understand what ‘infinite possibilities’ mean. Because they couldn't imagine what's behind their ships, so some of them vigorously rowed against the flow. Isn't that right? That's because the direction in which they're going forward is directly opposite to us.”
Mnn…… That might be right……
“If I gave people like you a direction, you'll turn out like that automatically. Tetsu, Major and Hiro might truly want to save Toshi, seeing as they've been partners who had been playing games of dice together. Even so, they just wanted to pretend that they're cool, so they can't take part actively. They were actually waiting for your help.”
I recalled the burning passion in their eyes— maybe it was all like Alice said.
“I speak of this like it's none of my business, but I'm actually a person who likes to hide her own true thoughts too. The only worrying thing for NEETs is only one— not knowing what to do.”
Alice put down the bowl, holding her chopsticks weakly while spacing out with lonely eyes.
“After the big flood, God used four bases to engrave his best wishes and absolute orders for all living creatures, have you heard about it? ‘You must live strong and breed to fill up the whole world.’ But— He forgot to write it on us.”
Her words sounded just like a joke, but seeing Alice smiling as if she finally saw the beaming face of the sun after floating in the sea for three days while clutching on a plank, I couldn't laugh at all.
“…… but, you're the same right?”
Alice said. She placed the bowl on her bent knees, gazing at me with white fumes of the hot soup swirling between us.
“Not knowing what to do, which is why you want to know something that's useless even if you know, feeling very, very anxious, so anxious that you can't stand it.”
The truth is as Alice said, so I didn't answer her.
“Why? Why is it that we can only see what we have lost?”
Alice stopped talking then. She again picked up the chopsticks, temporarily focusing on her bowl. The room was filled only with the sound of Alice slurping her noodles, chewing on onions and the sound of a large number of cooling fans.
When I stood up, took out a can of Dr. Pepper and placed it in front of Alice, she had just finished eating her last mouthful of noodles.
“You're only clever when it comes to these things.”
Alice laughed while opening the can, while I squatted down at a corner of the bed, hugging my knees.
“I don't have any other talents anyways, so I'll just get cans of Dr. Pepper for you forever.”
The words that I said only to ridicule myself felt as if they would become real after I said it. That made me feel even more hurt.
I raised my head because of Alice's call.
Alice was waving to me…… Eh? What is it? Does she want me to go there? Feeling suspicious, I slowly edged there while kneeling.
Alice patted my head.
“What are you……” What are you doing? I couldn't help but take a step back.
“That's the first time I got that reaction. Hiro was delighted, while Yondaime showed an annoyed expression but didn't run away.”
“No…… I think it's better if you don't do these kinds of things to guys.”
Asking me why, I couldn't answer.
“Didn't you say that you're useless? Didn't you even listen to what I said just now? It's so rare that I'm telling you meaningful things like people must have their own talents, humans have limitless possibilities and so on, too.”
…… Didn't you just say that those are meaningless statements?
“But no matter what you do, the person who will praise you is not here anymore.”
Alice's gentle voice made my whole body freeze.
On the wall beside the entrance, I slowly slid down to the floor.
“Even if you have a direction— there's nothing at all in the direction that you're going. The only destination is the cemetery. So at least let me touch your head as a consolation.”
Alice walked down from the bed and came closer to me. She bent down slightly so that her eyes were at the same level as mine, even as I was sitting down on the floor, and then again used her chilly hands to rub my hair.
There weren't any news on the next few days.
Although I went to the ‘Hanamaru Ramen Shop’ every day after school, I didn't do anything special. Hiro went to the hotel every day. Major claimed the gas tank in front of the stairs as his own, facing his notebook-sized computer with a vicious expression on his face, causing people to stay away from him.
I originally wanted to ask Min-san to let me give her a hand, but she seemed to have noticed my thoughts and said with a stiff expression:
“No, thanks…… You just hurry up and find a wife that's really good at doing housework, and steer clear of the kitchen forever.”
Although her words were harsh, I couldn't say anything to rebuke her. That's because I created a new record that even Ayaka couldn't achieve— breaking five bowls in just two hours. Squatting down on the wet soil, I almost wept because of my own uselessness.
Right when January was about to end, a big case occurred. I saw it on the television when I was about to go to school. The middle-aged male broadcaster suppressed his feelings with skill, and only showed about a centimeter of regret on his face while broadcasting.
“…… mass poisoning incident has occurred. At about eleven at night, six people suddenly fainted at a night club that was open until late in the night……”
The shop was just beside Balco Supermarket, a famous club that even I've heard of. Of course, the broadcaster didn't say that the club was in any way related to the drugs.
But at about eight that night, Tetsu-senpai who didn't appear at the ‘Hanamaru Ramen Shop’ for quite a long time came in and said casually: “The mass poisoning incident is related to Fix. Ah…… Yeah, that's what I heard from the police.” Is it okay for the police in this area to do this? Revealing information to a nineteen year old pachinko gambler, did they tell him that just because he's Tetsu-senpai?
“Any news from Yondaime?”
“There's probably more people than the police working on this. As it's a human sea attack, we'll probably find something soon…… I gave them the information that I've tidied up. But the pills are already so widespread, why aren't there any clues?”
I politely interrupted. Tetsu-senpai and Major turned around to face me at the same time, making me feel somewhat nervous.
“…… if we're using a human sea tactic, can I help out?”
Senpai cocked his head.
“How about you ask Yondaime about that? Although I think you'll be refused.”
“That guy seems to hate you a lot, even though you've met for only two or three times.”
“No matter how Yondaime sees you, you can't take part because you're a high schooler. Although they are yakuzas, they're actually quite decent. Those who are schooling can't join them, their enemies would be enemies forever.”
I see, it's because I'm not even a NEET. Facing me, who was looking downcast, Tetsu-senpai showed a mystified expression.
“What is it? Just having another person to help wouldn't improve things, and you're the customer, so you don't have to do anything except wait for the results.”
That's not the problem. Then what's the difference with this and letting Alice handle all of it, while only being in charge of getting Dr. Pepper? There's no difference asking for help from anyone, but I must depend on myself to find out the reason for Ayaka's suicide. I could only tell myself repeatedly that I must find out the truth by myself, using the reason of doing something to help out Ayaka so that the emptiness in my heart could be filled.
Even though I knew that it couldn't be filled.
It's impossible to fill it, because Ayaka would not smile or speak to me anymore. Because I'm not doing anything by Ayaka's request, she didn't say anything— didn't say anything to me, and tried to commit suicide.
To her, our friendship was just to this extent, huh?
Now, it is already too late.
The ringtone of ‘Colorado Bulldog’ rang as usual, stirring me from my indecisive emotions. Tetsu-senpai and Hiro stood up, but the only phone that was ringing was Major's.
‘It's me, did you bring the recorder today?’
“Yes, but what do you want to do with it?”
After that, Alice and Major had a conversation on the phone for awhile. After they hung up, Major looked at us and said:
“It seems that they've found the person who stabbed people in Yondaime's shop. He was caught while drinking in a shop, and caused some trouble by taking out a knife.”
I was taken aback and stood up. Now that we've found one of the drug dealers, we can start to take action.
Tetsu-senpai said: “Is that guy an idiot? At least get it clear that he's on the turf of Hirasaka-gumi.”
“And he went into the shop when Tetsu and Hiro were investigating there, is this what they call finding something through sheer luck after looking for it for a long time ?”
“So what did Alice say?”
“She wanted to hear the contents of the interrogation, so she asked me to record it.”
“Oh, that's why she asked you if you have a recorder on you. But Yondaime probably started to beat him up, right?”
“I heard that Yondaime isn't there yet, so she wanted me to hurry there.”
“If you don't hurry, the guy will get beaten up into a pulp. Yondaime is merciless towards people who make a move on his partners.”
My back felt cold after hearing Tetsu-senpai's words.
“I walked here today, because I came here directly from Akihabara…”
“Narumi, you rode a bike here, right? Take me there.”
“You want to help Yondaime, right? It's probably okay if you just tell him.”
“Stop that nonsense and go! You're not alright staying here anyways, are you?”
Indeed, that is so. Why is Tetsu-senpai so clear about my thoughts? Or is my crestfallen expression that easy to read?
“Let's go! Vice Admiral Fujishima, ride like the wind!”
Major started to hit my bottom with his bag energetically.
Club Haploid Heart was located at a basement of a small building at the Snack Street behind Tokyu Shopping Mall. Yellow neon signs were hung on the cramped stairway leading to the basement, and the name of the shop was written in English cursive. I found a sticker with a swallowtail butterfly emblem on it stuck onto the lower right corner of the signboard. It seems that the shop was a franchising store. Is this shop really operated by Hirasaka-gumi? I always thought that Hirasaka-gumi was just a fake yakuza gang that was formed from NEETs, this is really getting more and more confusing. To be honest, I thought that Hirasaka-gumi was a motorbike gang until last month.
“Are you going to wait outside?”
“Well, I'm here anyways, there's no reason for me to just wait outside.”
As it's my first time entering a club, I was quite nervous. Two young men squatting down at the corner, playing games on their phones, turned around to stare at Major and I, as though they were looking at ostriches that escaped from the zoo.
Walking to the end of the stairway, we opened the massive doors, seeing the walls and floor of the short passageway that were painted gold A counter was at the left, while there's a door deeper in the room. The room looked just like a pressurized cabin in sci-fi movies. The high-pitched part of a dance song could be heard in here.
“High schoolers are prohibited from entering the shop.”
Wearing a black wired sweater, the male supervisor that looked somewhat like a woman said to us. He directly glared at me, then shifted his gaze to Major, who was wearing a military uniform, completely failing to fit in with the night club. At that moment, I just realized that I was still wearing my school uniform as I went directly to the ramen shop after school.
“We're not customers, Souchiro asked us to come.”
Major lied indifferently.
“Ah, Sou-san asked you to come, did he?”
“There's a problem right now, so we—“
“And when did I ask you to come again?”
Major jumped about two meters because of the sharp voice. Turning around to look at the entrance that we've just came in from, Yondaime, who was wearing a crimson coat, walked towards us against the light followed by Rocky and Pole.
“Sou-san, thanks for your hard work.”
The guy(woman?) behind the counter said in a high-pitched voice. I sneaked a peek at him, and found that his whole face was red because of nervousness, and only his eyes were glittering.
“Aniki, thanks for your hard work!”
Rocky and Pole greeted me in a chorus with their heads lowered. Major stared at me with an astonished expression on his face. I, myself, don't know how it turned out like this either!
“What are you doing here? Did Alice say something unnecessary again?”
“She just wants to know the contents of the interrogation.”
Major shrugged, and showed Yondaime the palm-sized recorder. Yondaime made a ‘tut’ sound.
“And why is the Gardening Club kid here, too?”
“Vice Admiral Fujishima is Alice's assistant.”
“Ah— enough, I get it. It's so troublesome.” Yondaime pushed Major and I away and said to the counter: “Sorry for troubling you, the person that I'm looking for is inside, right?”
When the door inside opened, Yondaime turned his head around and said to me:
“Gardening Club kid, at least take off your coat and your tie!”
It was like the shop was in an alternate dimension. A slow song was being played on the dance floor. An eerie orange color that appeared only at dawn in the black seas surfaced in the middle of the dance floor; the strangely dressed DJ wore four different colored shirts, and was playing the six beat music that made people feel anxious. In the darkness, the crowd shook their head with the beat, jewellery and glasses glittering due to the dim reflected light.
With Yondaime in the lead, followed by Rocky, Pole, me, and lastly Major, the peculiar group walked in a line further into the shop, pushing away the other people in the crowd.
“Sou-san, good to see you again! It's rare that you would appear at this time.”
A row of office ladies who finished work surrounded Yondaime.
“So sorry, but I'm busy right now. I'll come find you later.”
“It was so scary just now! A crazy fellow took a knife and went on a rampage, it was so terrifying.”
“Good thing the show didn't just stop because of this. The DJ today is great, Sou-san should listen together!”
Rocky opened his mouth, showing his teeth to scare them away, while Major and I slipped through the gap. The suspicious gazes of the girls are really painful. After that, Yondaime had to deal with the girls who rushed over when they saw him every five meters. Finally, we reached an inconspicuous door in the shadows of the spiral staircase, and the words ‘Staff Only’ were written on it.
At the moment the door was opened, the odd sound made by a man rang in the corridors. I couldn't tell if it was a wail of distress or his laughter. I suddenly felt a chill on my back.
Metal racks, wooden boxes, stacked round stools, the cement wall that was pasted full of faded Pepsi Cola posters, there was an ancient air to the room. The wide warehouse might be shared, because quite a few doors could be seen on our way here.
“Thanks for your hard work!”
“Thanks for your hard work!”
A few men wearing black T-shirts greeted Yondaime.
“Aniki is here too?”
Even I, who was hiding behind Rocky, was found immediately.
There was a tied up man lying on the floor at a corner of the warehouse. He wore a dark green hoodie with slightly dirty pants; His eyes that looked like a crow searching for trash in a junkyard were wandering under his unruly hair. His skin and lips were parched, so his age couldn't be estimated, but he should be quite young.
“He had quite a lot of the pills on him.”
One of the lackeys handed a plastic bag to Yondaime. They were pills placed into different packets. They were much redder than what I first saw, but the marking of the wings and the two letters— A.F, I still have an impression on them.
“The amount that they're selling is increasing lately.”
“It might be a stock-clearing sale.”
“Oh, oh, oh……”
The man lying on the floor twisted his body while trying to get a hold on Yondaime's leg. The black shirted guys kicked the man in the stomach.
Yondaime took off his coat and handed it to Pole, who was behind him. He squatted down, caught hold of the man's unruly hair and turned the man's face towards his own shoulders.
“You recognize this emblem, right? You're the one who stabbed one of us, right?”
The man didn't answer, but just foamed in the mouth. I was overwhelmed by Yondaime's imposing aura, and could not even make a sound. I suddenly felt that the area was giving out a thoughtful air.
“How do you meet the people who made Fix? Where are they?”
There were Yondaime's low voice, and a high-pitched voice that almost buried Yondaime's voice.
“Don't even need to contact them, they are there, only we can see them. The top of their head is shining, have wings, can hear the song. We can hear…… and can see, only we can see.”
“Stop that nonsense!”
One of the lackeys kicked the man's back, causing the man to cough violently, but he didn't stop talking.
“The wings that you couldn't see, but we can see. In the crowd, the song guides us. You can't hear it, right? Scum like you could never hear it. Dylan, Bob Dylan's ‘Knockin' on Heaven's Door’ is sung, and the angels will correct us.”
Angel Fix will not look down on anyone, that's what Toshi said. I couldn't help but push away the broad back of one of the lackeys and ran towards the man. As soon as my face got close to him, I smelled the odor of blood that he coughed out.
“Do you know Shinozaki? It's this person, this guy.”
I took out a copy of the wanted poster with the photos of the six people on it, showed it to him and pointed at the bottom right corner.
“Have you seen this guy?”
“Aniki, it's dangerous to get close. Please step aside.”
The black shirted man caught hold of my collar and pulled me away. The man didn't look at the poster or at me, but continued with his weak voice that sounded as if he squeezed them out:
“You who cannot see the angels or hear the song should just die. Kill you, I want to kill you, I'm very gentle, so I just stabbed that guy in the stomach, the blood is warm……”
Veins showed on the lackey's forehead, and he raised his hand.
With a ‘thwack’, his hand was stopped.
Yondaime slowly put down the hand of his follower.
“Undo the rope on him.”
“We don't know what he's going to do!”
“Stop making a fuss. This type of scum needs a trial too.”
After the man was free, he stood up stiffly like a robot. Yondaime took out the large saber searched from the man, pulled out the scabbard and looked at the blade.
“Hey! The trials of Hirasaka-gumi have been suggested by a certain idiot following the customs of medieval Europe. They are also known as God's Judgment; because God will let the right party win.”
The man picked up the knife that was thrown to his side like a hungry wolf preying on sheep. I nearly cried out loud.
“Aniki, please go out.”
A few black shirted men formed a wall with their back, leading Major and I out of the warehouse.
“That's really dangerous! K- Knives……”
“Vice Admiral Fujishima, Yondaime will definitely be okay.”
At the instant when Major murmured that, the drug addict kicked the wall and leapt to his front. It was like we could hear the sounds of the blade slicing the air. But Yondaime couldn't be seen anymore, so we didn't know how he moved. Yondaime stood in front of the drug addict leaping towards him, and he hit the man in the back of his head. When the man collapsed, the sound of his teeth cracking echoed in the room.
A black stain spread from the head of the collapsed man.
“…… Thanks for your hard work.”
“Thanks for your hard work.”
The members of Hirasaka-gumi solemnly bowed. Yondaime kicked over the motionless man, and blood could be seen on the man's face.
“Gardening Club kid, get out of here. What goes on next isn't something that a kid like you can see.”
“Aniki, sorry for this.”
Before I could protest, two lackeys pushed me out to the corridor. Just before the doors were closed, I saw Major who was starting the recorder, and the eyes of Yondaime who caught hold of the man's hair.
I was left alone in the cold corridor that was illuminated by flashing neon lights.
Wails of agony came from behind the door, and they lingered in my mind for a long, long time.
Squatting down on the corridors with my face buried in my hands, I raised my head when I heard the sound of the door opening.
Yondaime walked out behind Major. I realized that there was blood on his fists.
“…… How's that guy?”
“He's just blabbering some things that people couldn't understand, so I haven't killed him yet. There are still some things that I have to ask him.”
Haven't? Haven't killed him yet?
What if he doesn't have any information on him?
“Major, take this bag of pills to Alice.”
“The contents changed?”
“That's possible. The people who are hospitalized increased lately. Just a small amount of it could make them very high, causing the idiotic kids to be so happy. It seems that a lot of other chemicals have been added.”
Other chemicals have been added. At this moment, I realized with shock that it's because of the decrease in raw material.
Because of Ayaka's absence.
Major took the plastic bag from Yondaime and placed it into my hands.
“Vice Admiral Fujishima, help me take the pills to Alice. I need to go home for awhile.”
“Oi! Don't ask a high schooler to send this type of thing!”
Major turned to Yondaime and shrugged.
“It's okay if it's Vice Admiral Fujishima! His face and his appearance is bland to the extreme, even if a terrorist attack happened at the Imperial Palace, he could still go where he wants in the Chiyoda area without even being questioned.”
Mind your own business.
Yondaime made a ‘tut’ noise and said: “Why aren't you delivering it to her?”
“Because I have to go edit the audio! How could you let Alice hear the sounds of Yondaime dislocating the man's arms, breaking his teeth and trampling on his hands!”
“You really are an annoying guy.”
“Thank you for the compliment.”
Pole stuck his head out of the warehouse.
“Sou-san, we've finished bandaging his wounds. Should we bring him to the office?”
“I'll hand it to you.”
As Yondaime was about to walk further into the corridors,
Yondaime is always so sensitive to my voice, like he felt that I was an irritating bug that stopped on his neck.
My voice disappeared because of the glare by the wolf, and made me unsure of what to say next. Indeed, I came here to help find Toshi, but the atmosphere at that moment made me unable to say that.
This is really not a world that I could live in.
On the way back to the ramen shop from the night club, my phone vibrated suddenly when I was riding on the trails beside the park. I stopped, looked at the name shown on the liquid plasma screen, and nearly cried out loud.
With a ‘Ker-plunk’, pain came from my elbow and kneecaps. My bike fell onto the ground, while I, too, was sprawled on the road. Some drunk office workers scolded me when passing by, but my eyes were still glued to my tightly held phone. Ayaka, it's Ayaka! How could that be? Why was Ayaka calling me?
Lying on the asphalt road, I picked up the phone with trembling hands.
‘…… Hmm? Mnn? Oh, oho~ this number really is yours, ah, hahaha!’
A familiar voice came from the phone, the loud but somewhat hoarse voice of a man.
‘There's only your number and the ramen shop's in Ayaka's phone, ahaha, hahahaha!’
Toshi's eerily piercing laughter is obviously the kind he produces after he took the drug. Why would Toshi have Ayaka's phone? The thought that Ayaka might have seen Toshi before she tried to commit suicide completely missed my mind.
“Where…… are you right now——”
‘There's wanted posters everywhere, even Hakamizaka's face has been found out. Haha, I've really underestimated Alice, she's truly a freak.’
“What did you do to Ayaka?”
‘Why, why did it turn out like this……’ Toshi's voice sounded somewhat listless.
‘About Ayaka, I'm also…… If I, I……’
Sniffles came from the other side of the phone. Toshi was crying, he just couldn't hear my words.
‘We can't run away anymore……’
Toshi's voice gradually became smaller.
“Hurry up and say where you are!” I shouted, as if I'm hammering him. Toshi started to mutter:
‘…… hey…… Sa…… save……… Me……”
“Are you joking! You—”
The noise of something suddenly came from the other side of the phone, interrupting my words. A man roaring: ‘Idiot, who are you talking to!’ and then a noise like a cabinet keeping cutlery was overturned sounded.
When I shifted the phone away from my ears due to the noise, a familiar voice of a man came from the phone:
‘…… So you're Alice, huh?’
A husky voice.
“Who are you—?”
I've already noticed before I asked him who he was, this is the voice of the man who stood beside me at the zebra crossings the last day I met Toshi.
“Are you— Hakamizaka? Where are you? What did you do to Toshi!”
‘You're not Alice? Isn't the detective looking for me? Do you know Alice?’
“Answer me! Why did you take Toshi away?”
I stood up, going forward while clutching at my bike with one hand, as though I'm clenching desperately at the neck of the man at the other side of the phone.
‘Oh, you're the high schooler who was chasing Shinozaki that time.’
The man was laughing. Hakamizaka was laughing at me through Ayaka's phone. Anger that flowed in through my ears were like boiling blood, suppressing my breathing.
‘Tell the detective, find me if she's really that good. Come catch me. If even you guys found me, my experiment would be a success.’
“You……What are you, trying to do?”
‘Telling you would just be a waste of time. You don't have a clue, so you won't be able to come, I understood that when I saw you. But some people can, and many other people can too. I will correct those people. Even if there's only one, I will bring them to heaven.’
Just when Hakamizaka's voice raised all of a sudden, the phone was hung up.
I redialed Ayaka's phone number many times, almost to the extent of breaking my thumb. But I couldn't reach the number. The cold tone of the voice mail said that there's no signal or that the phone is off.
I got onto my bike and pedaled furiously. While I was dashing on the road, I might have shouted some incomprehensible words.
I rushed inside the room like I was going to tear down the door of room 308, causing Tetsu-senpai, who was yawning in front of the bed, to jump in surprise. Sitting opposite to him, Alice's hair flew up.
“Narumi, what's with you? You even forgot to ring the doorbell—”
“Toshi just called me. He's carrying Ayaka's phone right now, and is with Hakamizaka!”
Alice and I looked at each other, and Alice understood my meaning in a flash. Alice closed her mouth, turning again to the keyboard and hammered it in a surprisingly majestic manner while calling people at the same time.
Using a satellite to detect the weak electromagnetic waves from a phone and check one's location originally requires the permission of the opposing party, but Alice is a cracker who could even find out the phone log of their phones.
“Narumi, calm down and sit down.”
Tetsu-senpai forced me to sit down beside the fridge, as if he was going to flatten my head. My head hurts, breathing felt difficult; My body below my neck felt freezing cold, but my face was burning hot. I saw stars, and my lips were trembling uncontrollably.
“Breathe slowly, you're over-breathing. Listen…… One, two, three.”
Tetsu-senpai's large hand slowly massaged my back. I felt air blocking my windpipe like a fist, but I still forced myself to coordinate my breathing with Tetsu-senpai's beats. My chest that felt as if it was tied up at first, slowly felt more comfortable.
“It's no good, the phone isn't turned on.”
After about fifteen minutes, Alice finally turned her head around and said. I leaned against the side of the fridge, exhausted. My breathing was still very rapid, so I drank a mouthful of the sports drink that Tetsu-senpai bought me.
“Narumi, are you okay?”
I wanted to answer ‘Yeah’ but couldn't talk properly. Tetsu-senpai sat at the end of the bed.
“Darn, I've forgotten that there's still the trail of Ayaka's phone.”
“I forgot about it too. If only I had noticed earlier……”
Alice's face twisted because of hate, her thumb massaging her lower lip.
“But according to the phone log, they're still in the area.”
“They've probably ran away by now, haven't they?”
“God knows. The facilities for manufacturing drugs are probably on this street, which is why they're in this area. Leaving behind all of their stuff and running away requires comprehension…… Narumi, what did Toshi say to you?”
I blankly stared at Alice who was asking me a question, unable to comprehend at that moment that she was asking me.
Toshi. What did Toshi say in the phone again? He said that there's wanted posters everywhere and they can't run away now. And then, and then—
“…… He asked us to save him.”
Although there was only a small shift in Tetsu-senpai's expression, I still noticed it.
In the end, Toshi did say: ‘Save me.’
“Alice, I got it.”
Because of my words, the black hair swayed.
“You said that you didn't understand why Toshi let me see the drugs, right?”
“Toshi didn't come to borrow money from Ayaka that day, and he wasn't here to spy on your job, he's actually……”
Although there isn't any concrete evidence, I still know it.
“He's actually here to ask for help, but he just couldn't say it out loud, but hoped that someone, no matter who, would realize his plea for help, and then, and then……”
Did Toshi ask for help from Hakamizaka? Thus, the man used the pink pills to take the place of a helping hand?
Why is he so idiotic? Why didn't he just say so in the first place? Why now? “It's already too late! Idiot! He should say so earlier! Why didn't he say so before Ayaka commited suicide? Why did she try to commit suicide without even saying a word? Why? Why……”
I was truly angry at that moment, angry at Ayaka, and also Toshi. The two matters muddled into one in my brain, turned into words and spilled out from my mouth. But I couldn't stop. You want us to save you only now? It's all because of you that Ayaka fell into a coma. What a joke! Stop joking!
I supported my hands on the cold floor, and started to bellow as though I was throwing up.
After I finished shouting wordlessly until I could not say anything anymore, the silence that was flattening us gradually lifted.
In the frozen room, the first person to take action was Tetsu-senpai. He stood up from the bed and walked towards the entrance.
“So you're finally serious?”
Alice asked with a steady voice. Senpai placed his hand on the handle, saying without even turning his head back:
“Idiot, I'm always that serious, it's just that I'm not in a rush.”
“Oh really? If you don't hurry up, Toshi will either be swallowed up by the angels or slaughtered by Yondaime.”
The sound of the closing door shook me to the core.
It was only in these moments that Alice didn't say anything, and even took out a can of Dr. Pepper from her fridge herself. Alice squatted down by my side. Although our arms were only separated by a layer of clothing, our body temperatures were very far.
The following day, after class finished.
I squatted down alone in a corner of the school garden and dug while thinking that I'm never going to Hanamaru Ramen Shop ever again. It was not only because I have nothing to do there, it was also because my very existence was getting in the way of everyone.
Even if I don't know anything, I still want to find something that only I could do. Even strolling in the streets the whole day while holding a poster would be fine. Just waiting on a gas tank made me feel like I'm going to be flattened.
Something that I can do.
Something that only I can do.
Is there such a thing?
When using the spade to turn over the decaying roots, the thing in my pocket fell onto the soil.
It was a small plastic bag. There were four red pills in it, and on them were engraved the wings of an angel.
It was the Angel Fix that Yondaime gave me yesterday. That's right, I originally went back to the ramen shop to give the pills to Alice. I had actually forgotten all about it.
I lifted up the bag and looked at it through the weak rays of the winter sun.
The members of the baseball club ran through the courtyard, and two girls from the tennis club passed by them. Probably nobody would even think that I'm holding a drug that's named an angel, right? Because of these tiny pills, quite a few people have already died.
It's because of them that Ayaka fell into a coma.
Anger surged in my heart all of a sudden. I held the plastic bag tightly, used the spade to stab the soil forcibly, trying to restrain myself. It's just a drug. A round object that got its contents from the fruits of some strange poppy flowers. Even if I tore them apart, ground them into powder and burn them into ashes, Ayaka wouldn't come back.
Closing my eyes, I slowly breathed out.
Then, I lifted the plastic bag to eye level and again said to myself, this is just a drug.
I had a feeling that something was not right.
I didn't understand the reason. Raising the plastic bag, I turned its contents over again and again, feeling that something was…… off, but I didn't know what was wrong with it.
“FU- JI- SHI- MA- KUN!”
The voice of a girl interrupted my train of thought. I hastily stuffed the pills back into my pocket. Sayuri-sensei ran over to me from the school building wearing pure white clothing and a mini skirt.
“I'm sorry, can you please move the pots to another side?”
Sensei pointed at the flowerpot that hadn't bloomed yet.
“Is there…… something wrong?”
My answering voice sounded somewhat unnatural.
“As the rooftop is locked now, the graduation photo is going to be taken in the courtyard. We must find some space for that.”
Ahhhh…… So that's why.
“So am I bothering them then?”
Sayuri-sensei smiled wryly.
“Yeah, we can't go through the activities of the Gardening Club today.”
Anyways, I stood up. It was like someone told me, I had to walk somewhere, and not squat down and think of meaningless things. I sighed, stood up and patted away the soil on my knees. Because of Sayuri-sensei's help, we moved all the plants to the entrance in five minutes.
In the end, I still went to the ramen shop. I couldn't just disappear without even handing Alice the stuff.
I originally planned to hand the pills to anyone and then walk away, but there's not even a person at the kitchen backdoor. Am I too early? But I didn't want to hand it directly to Alice. She would probably see through my thoughts as soon as she saw my face, and then give some hurtful comments.
Thinking that I had no choice, I could only wait on the gas tank for everyone to arrive. Min-san who was busy preparing soup said: “They've already gathered at the office.”
As soon as I opened the door to the NEET Detective Agency, room 308, I heard the familiar voices of the guys from the inside of the office.
“…… only we could find them, there are glowing wings on the angel's head, and heard a song, we could hear, and could see, only us……”
Hiro and Tetsu-senpai sat at two sides of the bed while Major was sitting opposite to Alice. A large amount of plastic bags containing pink pills were stacked on the blankets. The voice came from Major's recorder, which is the voice of the drug dealer we caught at Club Haploid Heart.
Tetsu-senpai muttered: “They're saying the same thing as the guys caught by the police.”
“Because they have shining wings on their head, and Bob Dylan's song so they could find it immediately…… (Sigh). If there's really such an obvious person, Hirasaka-gumi would find them long ago.”
Alice shook her head and turned off the recorder.
“Narumi, what are you spacing off at the entrance for? We're having a meeting right now, so hurry up and close the door, then get me a can of Dr. Pepper.”
A meeting? I'm extremely getting in their way, so I'd better get out quickly.
I handed the Dr. Pepper and the Angel Fix to Alice together.
“Hmm? Ahhh, it's the thing that Yondaime gave you yesterday. You just keep forgetting important things easily.”
“Mnn…… Sorry. I'll just go home then.”
When I was about to walk out of the room, Major grabbed my coat.
“Vice Admiral Fujishima, where are you going? We're having a tactical meeting right now!”
“Well, it's just that…… I'm getting in the way, right?”
“Stop babbling and sit down. You're my assistant, right? If you went home, who'll get me my second can of Dr. Pepper after I finished my first one?”
Alice spoke to me with an arrogant air as usual. Vortices of questions appeared in my mind, but in the end I just bit my lower lip, saying nothing and sat down beside Major, who offered me a seat. It's too crowded. This really isn't a room for the meeting of five people.
Even though I would only get in the way, I might think of something after listening to the meeting. I changed my mind, and started to think of anything that I could do to help.
“These wings and the song might just be a code or something.”
Hiro said while flipping through the information.
“The bones in his hands were fractured by Yondaime, is it possible for him to continue having that illusion? And the five people who were arrested said the same thing!”
“There's no common point for the drug dealers…… And they're not even drug dealers, but just people who bought them in pill shape, the ones we call the first customers.”
“Someone even got them for free, meaning that the organization is not after profits, but did this for an experiment.”
“Then the drug addicts gather at points where there are shining wings on the people's heads and the music. Is it only them who could differentiate the markings? Is this a joke?”
I could understand what everyone said for now. We still couldn't find the person who directly took part in manufacturing. The man who was almost beaten to death by Yondaime some time ago bought a pile of drugs and sold them everywhere, but was clueless about things concerning the organization.
Is there such a thing? If the police or Hirasaka-gumi tried to buy the pills, they should probably find out about it immediately.
“I've tracked down the girls who bought the drug too, but couldn't find people of the organization.”
“There should be some kind of code. They're having regular supplies too, and yet the police in plain clothes couldn't find them.”
“So the problem is with the wings and the song.”
“I really have no idea what that means.”
While listening to Hiro, Major and Tetsu-senpai's discussion, I observed the large amount of Angel Fix lying beside Alice's foot. Again, I had that strange feeling that I had when I was at the school garden. What on Earth is it? What is the thing that keeps attracting me to them?
I subconsciously picked up a plastic bag. Alice noticed it and said: “Narumi?” I indifferently held the plastic bag and looked at it through the lights, and flipped it over to the back. At that moment I finally realized, the problem was not with the pills inside, but the bag itself.
I knew that my voice was shaking.
“— do you have a water based pen?”
“Water based pen?”
“It's okay as long as it's water based. Lend me one if you have it.”
Not sure from what time, the other three were looking at me silently. I took the red pen from Alice's hands, took out the pills, pressed the plastic bag against the walls and started to scribble on it from the corner.
I'm not sure whose shouts were those, and might even be my own voice. The transparent plastic bag that was dyed red red— a pair of open wings surfaced on it because of waterproof materials.
“This is almost completely…… drawn using transparent paint, right?”
Major said in a low voice, and I nodded.
The same drawing was drawn on each bag with the same material, and the picture surfaced on it because of the water based ink. Same as the wings carved onto the pills but with one of them facing the opposite direction, they were the wings of an angel.
“Narumi…… This thing…… You found it……”
“…… But, what's with this?”
“These are the shining wings, and that's why the police and Hirasaka-gumi didn't notice it.”
I answered, staring at a plastic bag that I didn't paint on. You really won't find it if you're not looking closely at it through a light.
“So these are the shining wings?”
The statement of the drug dealer: ‘Glowing wings on their heads’ and ‘A song that could be heard’.
Those were not hallucinations caused by the drug—
All of them were real.
The same paint could be used on the face, and also on a cap; Playing Bob Dylan's song non-stop, with their pockets full of the pink-colored magic drug.
“But why would the people who bought the pills realize it? It's so strange.”
“The side effects of Angel Fix cause their vision and hearing to become extremely sensitive, so that's why they found out about the signals, huh? Narumi.”
Alice answered in my stead, and I silently nodded.
‘It seemed that it had stopped’, ‘Could even see a slight movement’ , ‘Could win if I just close my eyes and listen to the sound’.
With just a correction— you would see the angels.
“They just have to wait for the people who had their minds sharpened after taking the drug. Is there really such a stupid way of selling?”
“The way they sell them is indeed stupid, but what if that's exactly their purpose?”
“…… What do you mean by that?”
“The experiment! A human experiment to confirm how effective the drug is. Could they create believers who could find the angel wings and song on such a noisy street—
Alice caught a handful of the Angel Fix by her foot and spread them on her bed.
“— and so his experiment is successful.”
Tetsu-senpai stood with his mouth open, unable to say even one word.
After a moment of silence, Hiro said:
“…… Are those your assumptions?”
Alice said while looking at the small hill of pills.
“…… So, what should we do then?”
After Major's words, the room sank into a silence.
The silence was heavy, as though it was frozen petrol, flowing into the room through the windows, because the five who were present knew what was coming next.
At that moment, I felt a sense of déjà vu that stiffened my whole body— I saw this scene before, as if I knew it a few thousand years, tens of thousands of years ago. That was what I felt, but of course that was probably just my imagination.
Even so, I still think that way right now. It might be because I saw my page on God's notebook before I was born, forgetting about the rest but clearly remembering what I should say in this situation.
Because, if there is a meaning for me to exist at this place in this moment—
Probably it's just for this purpose, right?
Thus, I spoke.
“I'll take the drug, and find the drug dealer.”
Sitting beside me, Major gasped instead.
Alice just continued to stare into my eyes.
Tetsu-senpai heaved a long sigh and sat onto the computer rack.
Hiro finally said.
“We can't let Narumi do these kinds of things……”
“Then who else is going to do it?”
I interrupted Hiro's words unhesitatingly.
“Apart from myself, who else saw the drawing on the bag? People can't see it just by taking the drug, can they? If anyone could see it, then we should have noticed it earlier.”
“No, aren't those just your assumptions?”
“Then! Are there any other ways? The only thing I can do is this! Even if you stop me, I'm still going to do it.”
I tightly held the plastic bag containing the Angel Fix, so tight that it was almost torn apart.
“Some people even died because of it, so……”
“Hiro, shut up.”
Alice's majestic voice rang in the room.
Hiro showed a dumbstruck expression for a moment, and then looked like he immediately became an obedient leopard and lowered his head.
Alice stood up from her bed, black hair flowing on her delicate shoulders. The small queen who forced the wall of machines to obey herself looked at me from above with an icy gaze.
“Narumi, there's no difference with eating the pills and dying. Even if you are okay physically, you would also die mentally, do you understand? Never mind, I don't think you would understand, you won't get it if you didn't take it. This is a helpless contradiction."
I silently listened to Alice's statement.
“But even so— if you are still determined to do it, I won't stop you, and will not let anyone stop you.”
I felt that my decision has already been made tens of thousands of years before, so I answered unhesitatingly:
“I will do it, because that's what I've decided.”
A sad expression was shown on Alice's face. Her long eyelashes drooped, as if she was going to wipe away tears, and opened her eyes again.
“Major, prepare a mini-microphone, earphones and a camera that can be fitted into a cap. Hiro and Tetsu will decide on the place and time. I'll arrange all the information into a map.”
“Alice…… Is this really okay?”
Hiro looked at me and said restlessly. Alice just looked at him once and said:
“There's no other way, we can only go forward on this road. This is—”
At that moment, Alice's expression was really, truly lonely. The loneliness would make people feel as though their heart was directly entangled by thin threads as soon as they saw it, and an expression that would shatter into teardrops if too much force is used.
“This is the only feasible way. So don't say anything, and do your own part.”
I was the last person out of the detective agency, because I was forced to stay and write Alice's documents. The wind was so strong outside, even colder than the strong air conditioning inside the room. The brightness of the sleepless town shone onto the bottomless night. Not even one star was shining in the night skies.
I turned my head and stared at the signboard of the agency.
It's the only NEET thing to do.
Is that really so? I don't know, either.
But this is undeniably the only thing that I can do. It's not for Ayaka, and not for Toshi, not for anyone, but for my own self.
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