Chapter 5: Biggest Happiness
“I met him before.”
That boy cried because he got rejected, and that’s all Sayo knew. She just so happened to meet Sugawara when she went to her hometown.
If her memory’s correct, it seemed it was a month and half before Masaya killed himself. At this point, I had yet to understand what had that got to do with this?
Frustration due to rejection? How’s that possible? If that was the case, there should have been proper investigations. First of all, the timeframe didn’t match.
How was one person able to dominate four middle school students, including Masaya?
Without anyone notice the bullying?
Taku Sugawara was monitored.
The will, the search details, the violence, forced kneeling, internet articles, there were lots of mysteries.
And then, the infamously strange education system called the Human Power Test.
“But there’s only one thing I can do now.”
I heard from my mother, Akane Kishitani.
She was the one person who knew most about what happened after the bullying, and the one who had been watching over Taku Sugawara.
I knew very little about Akane Kishitani.
After she graduated from high school, she worked as a manager at a SME, met an older man during her working days, and got married at the age of 23. On her 26th birthday, she bought her dream home, gave birth to her eldest daughter, and lived a happy life. She could be said to be living the dream. However, when her son was about to be born six years later, her husband died of an accident.
With her parents assisting her, she worked and raised Masaya and me. Her husband’s inheritance was sufficient for us to study till college, but it seemed she kept working to fill up the void in her heart. Following that, I had memories a typical model mother, sometimes strict, sometimes kind.
And after ten years, I, as the elder daughter, started living alone. Three years passed, and I would only return home at year end or O-bon, so I had no idea of the changes that happened to her.
According to Kouta Katou, it seemed she became a monster parent, always looking for trouble with the school.
I would say, rather than feeling tense about this, I was terrified.
Yes, it’s most appropriate to describe it as this. Ever since I started investigating, I had this feeling several times, but this time, it was different.
But, how’s that possible? I wiped my uneasiness with a smile. It’s for Masaya’s sake; how could I be backing away now?
I started grinding the coffee beans, and carefully poured two cups. The fragrance of the coffee lingered in the room, and with a hearty feeling, I had a talk with my mom, seated before the computer. She looked back at me, giving a smile.
“Oh, what is it?”
“I’ll like to ask you for something, mom; just tell me the truth you see. Just put the fa?ade aside, don’t think much about it, and tell me. What did Taku Sugawara do to you, mom?”
Mom’s expression immediately froze up. Seeing this, I really couldn’t help but cringe. However, I forced myself to stop thinking, and gave up on this thought.
Mom pulled a chair slightly, and went towards me. I saw the words on the monitor, and as I expected, it’s a proposal for the PTA meeting, that there’s a need for heavy punishment to avoid victims like Masaya.
“Do you really want to know?” With a kind voice, mom said, “I know you’ve been investigating this. The truth might not be useful to you though Sanae, and maybe it might cause more pain. Is this really alright?”
“Yeah, it doesn’t matter. Just tell me whatever you heard; I’ll hang on until the very end.”
I said, and she showed a hearty smile,
“Alright. I’ll tell you, a failure, the process of the devil torturing the genius boy Masaya.”
I was mentally prepared, but once I heard these words personally, the shock I felt was enough to crush my determination.
Masaya’s a kid who’s a hundred times more talented than I am. Compared to me, mom had a thousand times more expectations on him.
I knew about this.
I knew I was imperfect.
And so, mom started talking,
“Actually, it’s the duty of the parents to talk about this, but I had enough, since he’s gone. You know that Masaya’s different from you, that he’s good at everything, outstanding grades, chairman of the sports club, and often helping with household duties during middle school. The dishes he cooked were really delicious. He’s handsome too, and the aunts nearby are all fans of his.”
Mom continued to narrate, as though trying to vent this frustration she had for a long time.
“Ever since my husband died, it’s Masaya who had been supporting me, and you always left me disappeared. You don’t have any special traits, study at a low-end college, got fooled around by some strange man, and got dumped. That Masaya has talent since young if we’re comparing to you, and is able to absorb double of what you can learn with only half of his effort. There’s no doubt he’s a genius.”
“Well, yeah. Masaya’s great at everything.” I chimed in, “Like how he had double my score for a maths test…”
“Goodness me. To a widow who lost her husband, her children are more important that she is. I don’t have any hopes of your future however. Masaya’s basically my everything.”
“So that’s why you kept complaining to the school?”
“So what about the complaints? Look at his grades; even without looking at it as a parent, he’s considered one of the rare geniuses in Japan, in the entire world. It’s not just the duty of the parents to protect this rare gem; it’s also the role of an educator.”
You never had such feelings for me at all.
I had such a thought, but of course, I kept it within me, and bit my lips.
Was my mom such a person? She’s completely different from before. Right, before Masaya entered elementary school, she never made many complaints, at most twice or thrice a year.
“I’m not saying this without valid reason.” Again, she started talking, “Until Masaya entered middle school, I was really uneasy. I was worried that he would be unable to handle the jealousy for being too outstanding. If he’s too smart, he might not be able to get along with his surroundings, and there’s a lot more things to worry about. But my doubts immediately vanished.”
“It’s because of the Human Power Test. When Masaya got third in the year, I really believed he’s a rare gem of humanity. It’s a really wonderful test. Not only mentally, but socially, the test results proved that Masaya’s really outstanding.”
Akane Kishitani proudly continued, her face brimming with ecstasy as she smiled,
“And then, what do I talk about next? Ah, yes, that devil. I want to talk about that violence. When the school called and notified me ‘Masaya was beaten by a classmate with a water bottle’, I nearly fainted. I hurried to the staff room, heard of what happened, and realized what happened. First, two days before the incident, there was a bullying incident that resulted as a topic on the internet. A middle school boy bullied four other middle school boys with very cruel methods. “Was this written by one of you?” I asked Masaya, and he, left with bruises on his head, silently agreed, It’s Takayoshi who typed it into the computer.” So he said.”
At this point, I asked tentatively, “And you believe this, mom?” Mom’s unexpectedly calm, saying, “How’s that possible.” With a nonchalant look, she said, “I don’t think Masaya would be bullied. There has to be a catch, a person bullying four?”
However, she immediately switched to a grim look.
“But I immediately dispelled that thought.”
“I didn’t tell you? Masaya’s gym clothes got ripped up. Most importantly, when I met Taku Sugawara in the other classroom, he would smile and say, “I bullied those four. So what?” it’s a really ugly look on his face.”
“Taku Sugawara admitted it?”
“Yeah. That boy never showed a look of remorse. Also, he gleefully described what he did, basically narrating some precious memories, like how he forced Masaya to eat some slugs, and extorted money from the other three. “This is a revolution. The revolution will come with sacrifices.” So he smiled as he said.”
That description was different from what Katou described of Taku Sugawara. The Taku Sugawara he mentioned was someone so uninteresting. The only thing that matched was how he never bothered with others.
Thus, was this key?
Did he choose to live—as trash?
I haphazardly made notes in a corner of my notebook, and kept asking,
“Was it you who proposed to have him kneel before everyone, mom? Every day, during noon break, at every classroom.”
“Eh? Ah, that.”
For the first time, mom stammered.
“Now then, who proposed it? I forgot? The other guardians, the principal and Masaya himself agreed. Sugawara wasn’t willing at first, but it seemed he agreed at the very end. Everyone back then wanted to avenge against the common cause, to punish that devil.”
“Nobody objected? Hey, mom, Taku Sugawara might be the devil, but objectively speaking, this punishment’s way overboard.”
“The mood back then was the influence. If you were there and saw the arrogant Sugawara, Masaya with the bruise on his face, and the reveal on the internet, you would have agreed.”
Mom did not seem to be hiding something as she said this.
But this left me a little mystified. There seemed to be some force driving events.
“After that, most of the investigation was done by the school. It was said that Taku Sugawara was forced to kneel, and a lot of negative rumors about him popped up.”
“The school did notice that Sugawara was isolated, right…”
“Yes. In any case, Taku Sugawara was finally forced to succumb. He came to our house to apologize a few times, and not only our house, he went to visit the other victims. He came alone; his parents are always at work, not caring about their son at all. He’s trash created from his household. Then, he pleaded us, “Please don’t make me kneel down anymore.” I knew on first glance that it was an act, and he became a little forceful. He slipped up, and said, “Keep punishing me, and I’ll bully this trash with more savage ways.” There has to be a limit to how much he underestimates adults here. I recorded everything, complained to the school, and asked them to increase the punishment. Such trash should be given the death penalty.”
Once she was done, mom slammed the table,
“But as he said, Masaya finally couldn’t take it, and killed himself.”
And she continued to yell, as though driven insane,
“I WAS WORRIED ABOUT HIM! I WAS CONCERNED! MASAYA’S BEEN INCREASINGLY WEIRD! HE HAD NO APPETITE, AND EVEN PUNCHED AND KICKED AT HIM, YELLING IN THE ROOM! MASAYA HAD NO ONE TO DISCUSS WITH! HE ALWAYS SUFFERED ALONE! I DIDN’T KNOW WHY! HOW COULD I HELP HIM? I TOLD HIM ‘GO VISIT A COUNCILLOR’. I DID EVERYTHING I COULD, AND I DID SO!”
Akane grabbed her hair, and hollered,
“THAT DEVIL DID SOMETHING! HE CAME TO OUR HOUSE A FEW TIMES, AND JUST APOLOGIZED ON A WHIM! HE MUST HAVE DONE SOMETHING TO MASAYA! HE DEFINITELY PUSHED DOWN MASAYA’S GIRLFRIEND! SHE’S IN A COMA, AND LEFT HIM SHOCKED! THERE’S NO DOUBT IT’S TAKU SUGAWARA WHO DROVE HIM TO DESPAIR! THIS IS UNFORGIVABLE! MASAYA’S UNDOUBTEDLY AN ANGEL WHO GOT HIGH POINTS IN THE HUMAN POWER TEST, A GENIUS WHOSE PERSONALITY IS HAILED! I WON’T FORGIVE THAT DEVIL!”
She started coughing, and fell from her chair.
I hurriedly ran forth, and patted mom on the back. But mom shook off my hand.
She stood up without a word, basically viewing me as a hindrance, and went before me, to the kitchen, poured a glass of water, and gulped it down. I saw the water droplets fall from her lips. With a vacant look, she looked, “Oh, right.” She sighed.
“You’re investigating on Masaya’s matter alone, right? Once the truth is out, please remember to tell me the truth. That includes what Taku Sugawara did, what bothered Masaya; investigate everything.”
“…Okay. But mom, calm down a little.”
“Calm down? Hah! How can I possibly calm down now? That devil’s still living; he’s trying to drive others into misfortune.”
Before I could comprehend the meaning of those words, she took out a bag she left on the table, rummaged through the envelopes, and tossed me one.
“It was placed in the mailbox today, together with a cat carcass in a bag.”
Why would someone send a cat carcass over?
I opened the envelop, and found a letter, with a line of words clearly printed,
“The revolution shall proceed forth.”
That was the line recorded.
“‘Revolution’…there’s no doubt it’s Taku Sugawara.” Mom said, “The devil’s still in this city, planning something…why send a cat carcass over…! He already condemned Masaya to death! Is he still not satisfied…?”
Saying that, she grabbed her own clothes.
And then, she appeared to be on the verge of tears, glaring at the letter with much hatred..
I might never be able to comprehend the pain of parents losing a child, but mom’s expression left me unbearable.”
“Last year, Masaya said this.” She muttered, “I made a friend, he’s called Taku Sugawara, undoubtedly a good friend.” I remembered how happy I was for him.”
“Those two were good friends.”
“Please, make yourself useful…you’re a failure compared to Masaya, so at least you should do something for me, take revenge on the devil who killed his friend…”
I couldn’t say anything, and stormed out of the house.
I was in an internet café at a street, lying like a zombie. In the cramped room, I closed my eyes, covering my body with a towel. I seemed to have left this world by doing this, and my soul gained peace.
After a while, my smartphone rang.
It’s from Sayo.
I picked it up, and the usual crude voice tenderly comforted my soul,
“Yo, you free now? I got something to report.”
“Say it…” I whispered.
My reaction might have been too different from before, and Sayo seemed taken aback on the other end of the phone, but she never continued to pursue the matter, and continued,
“Eh, besides Masaya, there were three others who were bullied, right? Ninomiya, Komuro, Watabe; I went to look for them.”
“…Were they willing to meet? If we can get those three to talk, that’ll be the fastest way to do this.”
“No, it’s just through phone.”
I couldn’t help but raise my voice.
Due to mass coverage in the media, Shunsuke Ninomiya, Kouji Watabe, and Takayoshi Komuro moved away from this town, and their mothers remained hushed on this matter.
I thought Sayo might have something, but I never expected her to be this quick. As to be expected of this secret weapon.
“Eh, but they never revealed anything now. I tried various methods to call Takayoshi Komuro.”
“So how was it?”
“Eh, I failed.”
Sayo coldly stated,
“He wouldn’t say anything at all. He just insisted that he got bullied by Taku Sugawara, and drove Masaya to despair. He wouldn’t reveal why, and how the four of them got dominated. Till the very end, he was vague.”
“After that incident, Taku Sugawara was supervised. How did he force Masaya?”
“He said he didn’t know.”
“So I couldn’t keep asking. He seemed to be hiding something, but I’m not a police, and I can’t interrogate him. There’s something in the answer that left me curious though.”
“Eh, I asked what’s his relationship with Masaya, and he was serious with that.”
“An unshakeable friendship.”
“What do you mean?”
“Middle school kids like to beautify their relationships with others, I guess. It’s just that there seem to be something else to his words, so strange.”
So ended Sayo’s report. She never got down to the crux of the matter, but she managed to ask of their relationship.
But their words left me a little confused,
“Wasn’t Masaya’s friend Taku Sugawara…?”
“Hm? What do you mean?”
“That’s what my mom said. That’s what Masaya told her excitedly last year.”
“Ah? No, but Kouta Katou never said anything about Masaya and Sugawara being friends, and the media never reported it, right?”
That should be the case. I was stunned to know this fact.
What’s the relationship between Masaya and Taku Sugawara? Good friends others know of?
I pondered over the relationship between Masaya, Sugawara and the other three. “Hey.” Sayo called out,
“So? What did your mom say, Sanae?”
Those words were direct, but very kind.
“You asked her about that incident, right? What did she say?”
Of course, I couldn’t keep it a secret from Sayo, who had been helping me out, so I decided to explain to her. I didn’t go in order, and there was no basis of them, but Sayo listened to everything silently.
Mom’s disappointed in me, and pined all her hopes on Masaya, but she never got to protect Masaya, was devastated, and had a deep grudge against Taku Sugawara—I expressed a lot of my feelings.
As I continued talking, I grabbed the towel firmly.
Once Sayo heard everything, she sighed,
“There’s definitely something wrong with that.”
That was the first thing she said,
“I don’t want to say too much about other parents, but this is really weird here. She actually said such a thing to her own daughter?”
“Don’t blame my mom. I know how she worked hard to make it here when I was still young.”
“It’s fine. I still love my mom.”
At that moment, I felt my eyes heat up. “Ah, damn it.” Even though I had this thought, I couldn’t stop my tears from flowing. I grabbed the towel I borrowed, and covered myself from the top. The tears were absorbed, but I still couldn’t stop crying.
Sayo called out worriedly. She couldn’t see me, and I kept shaking my head, saying,
“But I guess it’s a little hard to take. The more I investigate, the more I see. I see how outstanding Masaya was, even the principal praised him, and the classmates too, and that’s why mom’s personality changed greatly. As for me, I’m basically nothing.”
“Why blame yourself? Logically, the strange part should be your family.”
“Yeah. It’s probably caused by Masaya being too outstanding, and me being too useless.”
“No, your mom’s the biggest issue.”
Even though we’re bosom friends, even if it’s from Sayo, there were some words I didn’t want to hear.
Sayo stopped talking, and I could hear her sigh from the receiver. It seemed she wanted to say something, but she gave up.
Even my good friend had given up on me.
“Sorry.” I apologized, “I’m a little drained. I don’t want to say anything.”
“Wait.” Sayo said, “For what reason did you begin the investigations?”
“For mom and Masaya.”
“If your mom tells you ‘Kill Taku Sugawara”, what will you do?”
“…You’ve been overly protective of Taku Sugawara.”
I said something colder than I expected.
“For the time being, don’t call me.”
And so I hung up, engulfed in silence. I sat alone in the internet café suite.
I laid down on a large space, not moving at all. I didn’t have any drive to read manga, and didn’t want to switch on the computer. I tried to sleep in this little pocket of brown wooden boards. However, my brain kept running, and I repeatedly thought about the truth mom told me.
I had an argument with Sayo.
I knew I was immature. Even at 21, I was still immature.
I switched off the lights, and closed my eyes, “Mom.” I muttered,
“I’m…not a good older sister.”
Sanae Kishitani lacks love. When did I have such a thought? When did I realize the difference in treatment between Masaya and me? Mom doesn’t love me, yet Masaya grew up in a loving environment. When did I start ignoring reality, that to earn my mom’s love, I started pretending to be a good older sister to Masaya? When did I become an older sister so lacking in love—an unfilial older sister?
I curled up in the single suite of the internet café bar like a little animal. I have no place to vent my frustrations, and slammed the wall, but nothing happened except for the pain in my hands. I could imagine opening my eyes to ten years back, but it didn’t happen.
The tragedy I suffered kept multiplying endlessly.
Ahh, I hated this.
But the bad things just continued one after another.
And then, I was attacked by the ‘biggest happiness’.
At 8pm, I left the internet café, and was attacked by somebody.
I shouldn’t have chosen to leave this road with few people. However, I never expected to be strangled from the back, and smashed with an ice pick. I tried calling for help, but there was no one.”
“Don’t move. Don’t make a sound. Don’t resist.”
It’s a male who said this, no, a boy who’s going through puberty. Sounded like a middle school boy, with a muffler wrapped around him, sounding vague.
He hooked my neck with his right hand, pressing the ice pick with his left hand, and grabbed me to a corner. I could only abide.
There was a silver needle shining at my neck, and the fear caused my rational mind to crumble.
Stop, will I die?
Like how Masaya died at the hands of others.
“Don’t interfere. Break way from this.”
The assailant said to my ear.
He shoved the tip of the ice pick to my eyeball, and threatened me.
“Don’t obey, and I’ll kill you. You’re an eyesore.”
Give up on the investigation.
This boy hinted to me. So, I instinctively blurted,
“Are you…Taku Sugawara?”
Behind me, he was shaking, and it seemed he was shaking. Maybe I was right.”
The one behind me was Taku Sugawara?
The devil who drove Masaya to despair?
“I’m…not.” However, he denied with a vague voice, “I’m not that trash. I’m the biggest happiness. I’m the biggest happiness. I’m a believer of happiness representing japan, the school, the class. You’re changing my position.”
“Enough questions, or I’ll really kill you.”
He grabbed my neck, and I fell backwards, losing my balance. He swung his right fist at my belly.
Right in the solar plexus.
The sharp pain that came caused me to lose consciousness.
I laid on the ground, groaning, and he began kicking at my arms, knees, neck, waist, shoulders and thighs, tormenting me over and over again.
It hurts! It’s scary! Somebody save me!
No matter how I prayed for help, nobody would save me. As long as I intended to cry out loud, the assailant would use the weapon, so I could only let him attack me.
Once he saw that I was covered in bruises, “Goodbye, social cancer.” He went away.
What’s going on?
There’s another mastermind other than Taku Sugawara?
I didn’t know the situation at all.
The closer I got to the truth, I started to be hurt, I received a cat’s carcass at home, I got into an argument, cried in sadness, and got attack. Did I still want to continue figuring out the truth?
I had no idea at all.
What was he terrified of? Biggest happiness? Social cancer?
“I want to run away already…I don’t understand at all. What should I do, Masaya?”
I couldn’t get up due to the excessive pain, and laid on the road, thinking about it.
Sudenly, I received an SNS notification from my phone.
Who’s it? I wondered as I checked, and found it to be someone unexpected.
“I know who the real culprit is. From Kotomi Ishikawa.”
The message was from the classmate who fell down the stairs three days before Masaya killed himself.
And also, this girl was Masaya’s girlfriend.
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